|Timeline: Bell, Book and Bedlam|
Paramount (DVD), ASIN B0001I55OC
When did Michael Crichton become a medievalist? Well, the 14th and 20th centuries bear outstanding resemblances for historian Barbara Tuchman. In her famous book A Distant Mirror, she points to parallel plagues and nearly endless wars. Similarly, for the time-traveler who brought us Jurassic Park, the more we look to the future, the more we encounter the past. The Middle Ages may appear distant -- but not when a writer hits his sixties.
Here, just as in Big Fish and The Barbarian Invasions, a son (Paul Walker) cannot relish manhood without reckoning with Dad (Billy Connolly) and death. Baby boomers tip not only on the brink of retirement but also in the thick of movies that require boys to consider Freudian analysis -- before Dad kicks off and curses the kid forever!
Crichton lasers in on an archeologist and his reluctant heir. Complicating the story, the father himself declares: "Trust me. If it's between archeology and you, you'll lose [Frances O'Conner]." Furthermore, the father notices: While the son maintains his independence, the girl resembles nobody more than her future paternal in-law. A son whose father knows his girlfriend better than he does can only win in a two-for-one sale.
Other plot kinks here will be familiar: the time-traveler who decides that, no matter what Thomas Wolfe says, you can go home again. The desperation of searchers for a lost partner on a deadline also rings more than one bell. If we examine this plot closely, in fact, it does not return us to the Middle Ages, after all. It zooms us to Han Solo and the Ark of the Covenant (surrounded by Nazis).
The father of this film may be the entire genre that always spawns men who behave like beasts. Track this science fiction bonanza to mummies, tombs and scientists, if you wish. The lab crowd always emerges sillier than everybody else. What creator handles this material better than Crichton? Add a sarcophagus seeking a live copy -- who thought of that before? Throw in an evil genius (David Thewlis) who lies to everybody -- and still cannot escape discovery. Just don't throw away your chance to see a master of science fiction -- from dinosaurs to romance -- do it again!
Here, originality lies in perceiving that every history buff can enjoy his own time machine. It begins with a book. It blasts off the screen. Don't climb in there and expect to come out the same. This time, you travel through worm-holes. Remember, capes not only fly through the air, they sweep up dirt, too. Those swanky triangular sleeves pick up every tidbit of grime in the dungeon. And nobody ever heard of drycleaners. Knot your best triathlon shoes! (Reeboks do not pass French muster.) Are you ready? Oh, and one more thing: Be sure to pack an extra ear. 9-1-1 doesn't exist yet. Sorry.
Click here to read Lynn I. Miller's review of Timeline.
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