"About Time" is sprinkled with bon mots and aphorisms, beginning with the voiceover by the main character, Tim, who describes himself as "too tall, too skinny, too orange." Tim is part of a loving family that includes a dear sister, a dotty and dapper uncle ("the most charming, least clever" man, notes Tim). Head of the family is the doting father. OnTim's 21st birthday, Dad calls him into his study to reveal a secret shared by the men in the family: they can time travel.
It's every bumbling man's dream really. Say the wrong thing. Just go back and be articulate. Forget something. Just time travel and find it. Learn of a car accident and do that one over to save a life. Be too shy to snag the love of your life. Get a backbone on the re-do.
And Tim does. He finds Mary ("That's my mother's name!" he says, a date-duller right there). Mary the younger is crazy about Kate Moss, and Tim kind of stalks her until she caves for him, despite his height, his skinniness and his ginger hair. They share a wild and wet wedding, the wildest and wettest very Richard Curtis-y wedding. There's a baby or two. There's the mess with his sister and there's his dad, beloved dad.
But there's also something screwy about this time-traveling plot device. Whereas the devotion between father and son, with a childhood memory revisited in loving style, is one of the sweetest parts of "About Time," the time travel itself is unwieldy. The film is too long and too soggy when it isn't being perky and sprightly and moving quickly, such as the scene in the Bakerloo Tube Station or that wedding scene.
Part of the problem is the casting. Rachel McAdams plays Mary, but for the early parts as a young woman, the actress is just too old, make-up notwithstanding. Domhnall Gleeson, son of the actor Brendan Gleeson, is all grown up from his role as a Weasley brother in the Harry Potter series, and he serves well as the good son. But the best part, as always, is Bill Nighy playing Dad. Nighy was also in Curtis's "The Girl in the Cafe," and he was also in the Harry Potter series. His best work is in nuance.
"About Time" has its charms and its outright, knee-slapping funny and its sweet father/son story, but hangs itself on the time-travel device.