Eye For Film >> Movies >> Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009) Film Review
Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel
Reviewed by: Jeff Robson
The idea of meeting a future/past version of yourself, killing your own granddad and changing the course of history by getting a butterfly to flap its wings (or something) has undoubted comic potential. And if TV sitcom veteran Carrivick’s film debut doesn’t quite milk it to the full there are still worse ways to pass 86 minutes – in this dimension, anyway.
You can guess the pitch – ‘The Terminator meets Shaun Of The Dead’, as a high-concept Hollywood genre is relocated to small-town England and played out by a cast of nerds and losers. The trouble is that both of those films were absolute corkers and I had fears of having to sit through a lame retread of the Pegg/Frost/Wright formula with none of the wit, style and genuine affection for the object of its spoofery that characterised both Shaun... and Hot Fuzz.
The first pleasant surprise comes in the opening scene, where some halfway decent special effects create an alien battle fleet ominously poised above the Earth, with an impressively tooled-up commander exhorting his crew to kick some intergalactic ass.
Sadly, it’s all a back-projection at a kiddies’ theme park – and the starship trooper is Ray (Chris O’Dowd), a sci-fi nerd who gets into character a bit too much and scares the living daylights out of his young charges. Sacked on the spot, he hooks up with his mates Pete (Dean Lennox Kelly) and Toby (Marc Wootton), who are busily employed handing out flyers for the nearby burger emporium dressed as dinosaurs, and the three decide the ideal remedy for their career woes is a night at the pub.
But on the way to the bar, Ray meets Cassie (Anna Faris) a beautiful but mysterious stranger, who warns him that a time portal has been opened up in the pub and that if he’s not careful the future will be altered forever – a future in which Ray and his mates become revered for their genius. All he has to do is avoid the gent’s toilets...
Naturally he thinks it’s a wind-up by the other two despite their protestations of innocence. But when Pete pays a visit to the little boys’ room he returns to find the bar full of dead bodies – including an older version of himself.
Again, this is an unexpected and striking scene, setting up enough of a sense of confusion and danger to make the boys’ adventures more than just an extended one-off sitcom. As they attempt to get time back on track they face the question: would you rather have a chaotic and unpredictable future where you have a chance to be something different, or carry on in a safe, unchallenging rut? They also learn that not all time-travelling hotties are good – and that they really should steer clear of the gent’s.
The success of a film like this depends to a huge extent on the players and fortunately Carrivick (whose TV credits range from Vicar Of Dibley to Two Pints of Lager...) has chosen wisely. O’Dowd, star of The IT Crowd and one of the best things in Annie Griffin’s ensemble comedy Festival, is a natural comic actor and his two foils are no slouches either. Wootton is a very believable fellow nerd, forever dreaming up ideas that will blow Hollywood away, just as soon he’s finished polishing the script, of course. Kelly (a mainstay of Shameless for several years) overdoes the Gallagher-esque Manc wideboy act in the early scenes but becomes convincingly wired and paranoid as the member of the trio who always seems to draw the short straw when visiting alternative universes.
Faris, a long way away from The House Bunny and a long way up from Scary Movie, is a game and glamorous foil to these wacky British guys. Mathieson’s script provides regular but not continuous laughs and there are times when the limits of the budget do become apparent. But in the main this is a fun, quirky film that could well be a post-pub favourite in the making. Given time, of course.Reviewed on: 24 Mar 2009