Starting with GROUNDHOG DAY whimsy and ending with PLANET OF THE APES dark
intensity, THE TIME MACHINE is a mixed bag but an entertaining picture,
although it's scarier than its PG-13 rating might lead you to believe.
Based on the H.G. Wells novel as well as the original 1960 film, this
version stars Guy Pearce (MEMENTO) in a part played by Rod Taylor in the
Professor Hartdegen (Pearce) is a scientist who experiences a tragedy that
causes him to invent a contraption that's a whirling combination of polished
brass and shining glass that looks like a cross between a horseless carriage
and a planetarium projector. Of course, it's a time machine. Hartdegen's
all consuming passion becomes using his machine to venture into the future
to find someone to answer his big question: "Why can't I change the past?"
The first part of his journey is fun, thanks especially to stirring music
and charming sets -- the background of director Simon Wells (THE PRINCE OF
EGYPT) is all in animation direction. An especially nice scene from this
part has the professor watching skirt lengths change over time. This first
part is quite funny, featuring large Lunar Leisure Living ads that look
straight out of STARSHIP TROOPERS. The film's funniest character is played
by Orlando Jones (EVOLUTION). As a literary and scientific know-it-all
named Vox, Jones is a holographic card catalog to die for. Of the movie's
many self-referential jokes, none is funnier than when Vox plays for us the
Andrew Lloyd Webber musical version of THE TIME MACHINE.
The less successful second half of the picture is set in the far away
future. Using the typical cinematic rule, the future looks more like the
past than, well, the future. We also learn a twist on the old rule about
not messing with Mother Nature. We also shouldn't mess with the moon.
Diehard fans of the original film may be angry that anyone would dare mess
with their movie, but I'm here to report that I enjoyed this version.
THE TIME MACHINE runs 1:36. It is rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of
action violence" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes