It's actually kind of amazing how often the time-travel subgenre marries to romance stories. Longing to return to a simpler past or hoping for a brighter future are staples in any love affair, especially tragic ones. (Not to mention the similarity between a clock's ticking and a human heartbeat.) Just look at Somewhere in Time (1980), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), The Love Letter (1998), Happy Accidents (2000), Kate & Leopold (2001) and The Lake House (2006) for a few interesting examples. What I don't understand is the very soft, goopy tone that most of these movies automatically adopt, with the exception of Brad Anderson's dark, tense Happy Accidents and James Mangold's standard-issue romcom Kate & Leopold.

Consider the new film The Time Traveler's Wife. It comes complete with a screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, who won an Oscar for his hugely successful sci-fi romance Ghost (1990) as well as writing very twisty sci-fi stories like Jacob's Ladder. In its favor, Ghost had a very amusing supporting performance by Whoopi Goldberg, and some action and suspense scenes, as well as a show-stopping love scene in front of a pottery wheel, set to the tune of the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody." In other words, it pleased most of the male dates who were forced to see it. So Rubin turns in his new screenplay, which was based on Audrey Niffenegger's 2003 novel. And, who knows? It may have once been funny like Ghost or twisty like Jacob's Ladder. Then comes director Robert Schwentke, a German transplanted to Hollywood whose last film was the generic thriller Flightplan (2005).