By Scott Brown
November 26, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Timeline: Stephen Vaughan

The best part of Michael Crichton’s technothrillers are his slow-burn setups, where very intelligent people give lively history-of-science lectures to coerce other very intelligent people into trying some risky new technology.

But Timeline director Richard Donner (”Lethal Weapon”) has little use for slow-burn setups or very intelligent people, so we go straight to the meat: Modern-day archaeologists (Billy Connolly, Paul Walker, Gerard Butler, and Frances O’Connor) get stranded in the 14th century, thanks to a wormhole opened by a Gatesian billionnerd (David Thewlis). Their mission: To babble and squabble amongst themselves until a main character emerges. (None does.)

In the hands of Donner, medieval times look very, well, Medieval Times (”Trust me! We’re in 1357 France!” one guy snaps, presumably at the audience), and the many anachronisms (modern speech, staples) have great drinking-game potential. Lacking both will and budget, the filmmakers have done the honorable thing and given us a sweetly stupid, mercifully brisk bad movie. Special kudos go to Walker, for his dead-on impression of a time-traveling 2×4, and the perpetually hysterical O’Connor, who delivers one of the most grating performances in history.

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