The Time Machine

This begins unpromisingly, in the Time After Time/Kate & Leopold puppy-love mode. The chronological setting of the H.G. Wells novel has been slightly updated (from 1895 to 1899), and practically everything else gets jettisoned; the city has shifted from London to New York, and there's even an anachronistic reference to Albert Einstein, who was only 20 in 1899. But once the hero (Guy Pearce) takes off in his Victorian machine, things start to improve; some of the notions about the near future in John Logan's script are witty, and by the time the movie gets to the far future, when the world's split between Eloi and Morlocks, it starts to bear some passing resemblance to the original. (The end is more giddy free-form invention, packed with action and a fancy Jeremy Irons cameo as the uber-Morlock.) As old-fashioned movie fun, this isn't bad, even—especially?—when it skirts the edge of silliness, and it's better than the 1960 George Pal version. The director, Simon Wells—who happens to be the great-grandson of H.G. and is mainly known for his animation—keeps things hopping and manages some fine visual effects. Pop singer Samantha Mumba, who has both Irish and Zambian roots, plays the Eloi heroine, and Mumba has her own kid brother in tow. With Orlando Jones, Mark Addy, and Sienna Guillory. 96 min.

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