***1/2 (out of four)
That sensation, one that the movies rarely elicit anymore, is your heart tingling.
While writer-director Richard Curtis (“Notting Hill,” “Love Actually”) always can be accused of sentimentality, corny plays well in characters we hope find happiness—especially in “About Time.” On that note: Welcome to the big show, Domhnall Gleeson. In an immensely likable, breakout turn, the actor (“Anna Karenina”) stars as Tim, a shy, 21-year-old Englishman whose dad (the great Bill Nighy) informs him that the men in their family can travel back in time. Not to, say, kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy. The power only allows them to return to moments they’ve lived before and get a do-over.
Once he’s finished revising New Year’s Eve missteps and re-failing at wooing the gorgeous Charlotte (Margot Robbie of the upcoming “Wolf of Wall Street”), Tim focuses his attention and, periodically, his gift on American girl Mary (Rachel McAdams, of course). Even granted the ability to order second and third takes of his own story, Tim discovers the limits to manipulation and the life that happens when you’re neither looking nor trying.
At times the movie’s light on conflict; elsewhere Curtis generates it through somewhat arbitrary rules, the exact sort of clunky business “Looper” worked to avoid. But hey, it’s a time travel movie. The physics aren’t always going to add up. The filmmaker has blended a “Futurama” episode with “Serendipity” (and perhaps specks of “In Time” and “Sliding Doors”) to craft that near-extinct being, the quality date movie. It’s recommended for anyone with a soft spot and someone to sit next to while getting emotionally (or literally, I guess) rubbed.
It spoils nothing to say that the hilarious, deliciously romantic “About Time” closes on a lovely, mundane moment between two people, appreciating the specialness of the ordinary—which doesn’t seem so ordinary with the right perspective. What a privilege to swoon over the familiar.
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