Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel

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Movie Review by Samuel Taradash

Starring: Chris O’Dowd, Anna Faris, Meredith MacNeil, Dean Lennox Kelly
Director: Gareth Carrivick

The pitch for FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT TIME TRAVEL must have been simple: SHAUN OF THE DEAD for time-travel. It’s a testament to Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s success that such a concept could be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the odds are that is exactly how this delightful little gem of a film is going to be referred to, which would make it too easy to dismiss. This is a clever, light, well constructed comedy that knows the rules of the genre and plays this game well.

The three main characters, Ray (Chris O’Dowd), Pete (Dean Lennox Kelly) and Toby (Marc Wootton), are thin. There really isn’t much more to them than wide-eyed dreamer, sarcastic slacker, and rotund comic relief. But that’s all right. We don’t need to know where they’re from, what their backstories are, or how they came to be, because the actors nail their parts. If you’re even slightly familiar with the last twenty years of pop culture, you already know them. And if you’re male, the odds are good that you’ve spent a night hanging out with them. That is, if you’re not one of these likable slackers yourself.

That is where the film succeeds. As the three are drawn into a time-folding escapade, their characters remain solidly unchanged and their interactions are pitch-perfect. No one spontaneously discovers an unlikely leader within, becomes a dinosaur-battling gladiator, or realizes an enduring inner nobility. They remain human, fallible, and committed to making fun of each other. Their friendship makes them that much easier to cheer for.

The two women in the film, Cassie and Millie (Anna Faris and Meredith MacNeil, respectively) do their jobs well, but make us aware of some awkward standards in sci-fi. Both are time-travelers, arriving from the future with superior technology, knowledge, and North American accents. And they are both women, making them definite outsiders to the main trio, and possible threats. As the love interest, Anna Faris continues her run of perky, attractive-but-approachable characters, and always brings a lightness to her scenes. But as the bulk of the film centers on the play between Ray, Toby and Pete, she does seem to be sidelined a bit.

The direction is generally solid, if occasionally betraying Carrivick’s television roots, and the special effects look good, neither overshadowing the actors or underwhelming the audience. If this film has any major flaws, it is that it feels more like an above average TV program than a feature film. But it never drags, and the camera work supports the repeated and revisited scenes well.

Geeks and sci-fi fans will enjoy the in-jokes, and non-nerds will get a laugh out of the rest. It may not hold up to repeated viewings in the future, but FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT TIME TRAVEL is definitely worth watching.

4 out of 6 stars