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Films: WASTE OF TIME; Clockwatching as the dull travellers lose way.


INVENTOR Alexander Hartdegen is a lucky boy. All he has to do is climb aboard The Time Machine (PG) and fast-forward through the boring bits.

You and I, alas, have to sit there watching the minute hand drag round at a snail's pace in this curiously unengaging movie.

Guy Pearce stars as Alexander, the eccentric young professor who builds a time machine in order to turn back the clock and save his doomed fiance, the victim of a violent mugging.

But his first attempt merely ends in her dying for a second time, run over by a car.

In search of the reason why he cannot change the past, he hurtles into the future to a time when a major catastrophe (the Moon disintegrating) has destroyed most of life on Earth.

Evolution has left the survivors divided into two distinct tribes, with the nice, peace-loving folk living above ground.

Alexander's broken heart seems to undergo some rapid repairs once he claps eyes on a pretty tribesgirl (Samantha Mumba).

But lurking beneath their feet are the dreaded Morlocks, who come out to feed on their neighbours.

It all gets a bit scary for a PG certificate so be wary of taking very young children to this movie.

The slavering, grotesque monsters look a good bet for sparking off a nightmare or two.

The special effects are respectable, especially when several millennia flash by outside the time machine - an agreeable, brass-knobbed, Victorian affair.

However, the human performances are distinctly lacklustre, with Guy Pearce underplaying it all to the point of catatonia while Jeremy Irons over--compensates as the hammy super-villain.

Ms Mumba might be well-advised to stick to her singing career although, to be fair, her rather dull performance is no worse than anybody else's.

It's difficult to know what the film set out to achieve, though I suspect it may be a prolonged tribute to the founders of sci fi, including H.G. Wells, who wrote the original story, and that other master of the genre, Jules Verne.

It also pays homage to futuristic fantasy movies with more than a whiff of Planet of the Apes in the air.

But it is all too much of a mish-mash of ideas to be anything other than fitfully exciting.

Nor could I understand why an entirely non-American cast should go to all the bother of adopting Yankee accents. All in all, I am afraid The Time Machine turned me into a clock-watcher.

40 Days and 40 Nights (15) is an amiable sex comedy based on a plot that is as see-through as some of the clothes worn by its cast of nubile young women.

Josh Hartnett, heavily touted as the next Hollywood heart-throb, is Matt, a young man hopelessly hung up on an ex-girlfriend who seems to have dumped him in favour of a new bloke.

He is not short of other girls but every time they get to the crucial point, the memory of his ex intrudes and spoils the whole thing. So Matt decides on shock treatment to get over her by giving up sex for Lent. I'm not sure how that is supposed to help but this is not the kind of movie where you should ask too many questions.

His friends do not believe he can keep a vow of celibacy and promptly open the betting on when he will crack.

Various women do their best to seduce him in order to win the wager, but the only serious threat comes from Erica (Shannyn Sossomon) whom he meets in the laundrette.

His vow forbids direct sexual contact but their relationship blossoms when they develop some inventively erotic ideas involving flowers. This is all very lightweight but the gag rapidly wears out and the script has to resort to a coarser brand of humour, involving Viagra and crude anatomical improbabilities. I suspect that if Hartnett's career is as dazzling as everyone predicts, this is one movie that he will prefer to forget.

The trouble with winning an Oscar early in your career is that it gets increasingly difficult to live up to all that promise.

Just ask Cuba Gooding Jnr, who seems to be forever casting around for a decent role and rarely finding one. His latest outing in Snow Dogs (PG) sees him having to play second fiddle to a string of huskies and a very cute collie.

Ted is a successful Miami dentist whose life is turned upside down when his long-lost mother dies and leaves him all her worldly goods.

He flies to Alaska to pick up his inheritance, only to find that it consists of only a log cabin and a team of sledge dogs.

Here he encounters a gruff old mountain man (James Coburn) who appears to be trying to diddle him out of his dogs and a beautiful girl (Joanna Bacalso) who looks after him.

Lots of jokes about the rookie let loose in the wilderness, some exciting sled-racing sequences, splendid scenery and, of course, the rather lovely dogs perk up an otherwise routinely sentimental story.

A little computer magic gives the animals the power to wink, grin and raise an eyebrow in a movie that should keep the kids amused this half-term.


SOFT SOAP... a visit to the laundrette brings Josh Hartnett and Shannyn Sossomon together in 40 Days And 40 Nights
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2002
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