This Houston Chronicle review was originally published on Oct. 3, 1980.
In the years since “Somewhere in Time” was released, it’s become a cult classic. But as you’ll see here, critics weren’t exactly bowled over by it when it landed in theaters.
In his review in the Houston Post, critic Eric Gerber said, “This is a movie strictly for people whose idea of a good book is one with at least two of these words in the title: ‘Love,”https://www.houstonchronicle.com/”Crimson,”https://www.houstonchronicle.com/”Savage,”https://www.houstonchronicle.com/”Flame’ or ‘Passion.”https://www.houstonchronicle.com/”
Repeated showings on cable and a burgeoning home video rental market in the 1980s have boosted its popularity.
J’accuse! I cry gleefully, pointing my finger at “Somewhere in Time” (at several theaters, Rated PG). You are charged with being so much romantic drivel!
To which the people who assembled this film calmly answer: Undeniably. Would you care to point out just where it is written that the issuance of romantic drivel is an indictable offense?
Folks, they’ve got me. There’s not a thing wrong with romantic movies. I will never publicly admit it, but I’ve been known to get off on the genre myself, sniffling through the drively bits like a Harlequin junkie.
A moment, please, while I rework the indictment.
J’accuse! This film is boring romantic drivel.
Understand that I object in no way to this film’s essence. The story, properly nurtured, has the potential of being as lush as an Oregon rain forest. It is simply drably executed.
Richard Matheson adapted the screenplay from one of his novels. He has as protagonist a handsome young playwright (Christopher Reeve). At a staging of one of this plays, an elderly woman comes up to him, presses an old pocket watch into his hands, whispers “Come back to me” and then disappears. Whaaa? thinks Reeve.
Time passes. Reeve is hung up trying to write a play. We know he’s hung up because we see him yank a piece of paper from his typewriter, ball it up and toss it into a wastepaper basket. F-R-U-S-T-R-A-T-I-O-N. Characterization in semaphore.
Reeve hopes to get the creative battery recharged at a sedate old Great Lakes hotel resort. Instead, he is haunted by a photograph in a nostalgia display. He finds out that it’s of an actress, famous when the picture was taken — in 1912 when she appeared in a play in the hotel’s theater. It was the same woman, superannuated, who gave Reeve the watch. She is now dead.
Damning the paradox, Reeve wills himself back to 1912, where the actress (Jane Seymour) seems indeed to be waiting for him. However, there is a complication, in the form of Miss Seymour’s Sevengali-esque [sic] manager (Christopher Plummer). And lurking about is the possibility that the voyage back in time is a round-trip ticket.
It is hard to say why ephemere of this specie does or does not work. My displeasure was based on a general sensation of the room’s-too-warm stuffiness caused by director Jeannot Szwarc’s tendency toward the redundant, specifically the yards and yards of Reeve and Miss Seymour looking cow-eyed at each other.
Miss Seymour looks cow-eyed a lot more successfully than Reeve. It is hard to believe this is the same capable and canny actor who was the best thing about “Superman — The Movie.”
Matheson’s best-movie-of-1947 dialogue is no more or less dopey than standard for the genre. It has the effect of separating the rookie actors from the veteran actors, because there’s a booby trap in every speech. Reeve, handling himself like a rookie, detonates every one. The film turns him into such a sap you want to call the police to report an abuse-of-actor in progress.