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Time well spent
Bana, McAdams star in well-told 'Traveler's Wife'

The Time Traveler's Wife (PG-13)

3 1/2 stars out of 4

A lot of people - sci-fi aficionados especially - are going to slam-dunk this movie and they will be justified in doing so. From the second it starts through its last scene it is rife with illogic and regularly contradicts itself.

It's probably a good bet there were few sci-fi fans who purchased or even read the Audrey Niffenegger novel on which this film is based. It's also safe to assume that the people who made that book a best-seller don't give a hoot about sci-fi logic. Come to think of it, the entire premise of all science-fiction is based on illogical theories.

This is a romantic drama with fantasy elements and if you can overlook its blips and shortcomings, you'll find it to be a well-told and innovative story completely lacking in predictability. Even when the ultimate fate of the lead character is revealed about halfway through, it does nothing to diminish the mystery and only ups the thriller quotient.

Unlike most characters in other time travel movies, Henry (Eric Bana, not this good since "Munich") can't control his trips, the period where he will land or even when he will depart. It's all random and the only constant is a Chicago setting. Theories are introduced as to why but rarely explored further. This is the facet of the story that will irk sci-fi purists the most.

Whenever Henry arrives after a trip, he's naked. This embarrassing inconvenience forces him to be resourceful on many levels. It also makes him weary. On only one occasion does Henry profit from his curse, something most would perceive as a gift. He realized as a child that he couldn't change the outcome of anything and often must re-experience tragic events while keeping the gravest information a secret to those closest to him, most notably Clare (the always dependable Rachel McAdams).

When we meet Clare, she's already known Henry since she was 5, but he doesn't know her. Or does he? Both characters are about the same age when this scene takes place, yet in actuality, Henry is about 10 years older than Clare. If you can ignore logic, the continuous shifting of Henry's differing age from scene to scene actually becomes a storytelling plus.

Another part of the movie that takes some getting used to (in a good way) is the non-linear narrative. Figuring out where and when Clare and Henry are at any given point presents a challenge. The same can be said for a late-in-arriving key character who provides the film with its most heartwarming - and heartbreaking - twist.

If after watching the movie, you notice more than a passing resemblance to "Ghost," don't be surprised. Niffenegger's book was adapted by Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote both screenplays. It should also be mentioned that Rubin also penned "Jacob's Ladder," a movie "The Time's Traveler's Wife" has more in common with than "Ghost."

Hats off for German director Robert Schwentke, who lends the film just a tad of European art-house sensibility and grit and keeps it from being just another sappy and mushy chick flick. This movie's got teeth.

Unfortunately, there's one thing the movie does not have - the need for repeat viewings. Despite the twists, this is no "Jacob's Ladder" or "The Usual Suspects." Once you've seen it, you get all of it and watching it twice might even diminish its impact. Still, comparing - in any way - a late summer romance to any classic mystery/thriller is no faint praise. (New Line)