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'About Time' review: Too cutesy

Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) and Mary (Rachel McAdams) in

Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) and Mary (Rachel McAdams) in "About Time." Credit: Murray Close

Boy falls for girl sight unseen, literally, in "About Time." They meet at the pitch-black restaurant Dans Le Noir and, after much playful banter and clumsy food-swapping, emerge into London lamplight to get a look at each other. He is Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), awkward, kind and wealthy. She is Mary (Rachel McAdams), an insecure knockout with Bettie Page bangs. Her first question: "You really like me?"

They could only exist in the fantasy world of writer-director Richard Curtis, whose credits include such British box-office treacle as "Love, Actually," "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill." His latest, "About Time," strays even further from reality by inventing a hero who can travel through time. It's a gift -- for Curtis, that is, who uses it to repeat adorable moments over and over in ever more adorable ways.

The film doesn't bother much with the rules of physics. Tim's eccentric father (the wonderful Bill Nighy) one day reveals that Tim has the genetic ability to return to any moment he wishes. The movie idles for a while as Tim figures out what he can do (kiss that blonde on New Year's Eve) and what he can't (force a teenage crush to reciprocate). By the time Mary comes along, however, he's gotten smarter. "When did you two meet?" he casually asks her new boyfriend. "But when, exactly?"

It's all so perfect and sparkly that Curtis would rather not break the mood with drama or plot. Gleeson (son of Irish actor Brendan Gleeson) is so tousled and earnest, and McAdams has such a dimply smile -- why saddle them with problems? They're so cute when they're happy! Tim's troubled sister, nicknamed Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), provides some of the few teardrops.

If two appealing stars and a nice, warm cup of philosophical cocoa are enough for you -- plus a yearn-rock soundtrack by Nick Laird-Clowes, of the 1980s band The Dream Academy -- then "About Time" is your movie. You don't even have to put it on repeat.

PLOT A shy young man discovers a useful skill: He can travel through time.

RATING R (language and a few racy scenes)

CAST Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy


BOTTOM LINE A charming cast, but this is an overload of cute from the writer of "Four Weddings and a Funeral." The repetitive time-travel scenes add up to nearly 16 weddings and four funerals.

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