When there is nothing at stake then there's no drama, and that's the biggest problem with The Time Traveler's Wife. Based on a bestselling novel that I haven't read, this story of a unwilling time traveler fighting to save his marriage has all the urgency of a cotton commercial. The enormously appealing Rachel McAdams plays Claire, whom we see in an early scene meeting and becoming smitten with Henry (Eric Bana). Claire is excited but not in the way you'd expect, for she has already met Henry during her childhood and had the whole time traveling situation explained. The screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) fuzzes the specifics of Henry's time leaps; for instance it feels entirely arbitrary that Henry knows he will make it back from the future for his wedding but doesn't know that he and Claire have a daughter named Alba (Hailey McCann). (It's also unclear why Henry is a different age each time we see him) Oddly enough the movie spends considerable time developing a scientific explanation for Henry's condition (electricity emitted by the brain) but the scientist (Stephen Tobolowsky) who unravels the mystery never even attempts to offer a solution.
If either of the lead characters had any darkness then The Time Traveler's Wife could survive the flaws listed above, but the movie doesn't develop a shred of suspense around what Henry will find each time he returns from his travels. Claire is always there waiting, and any chance that the time traveling device will be anything other than an imposed plot contrivance is left by the wayside early on. Eric Bana slips into blandness quite quickly, but McAdams is as effortlessly charming as any actress out there; her emotional journey is provides a point of entry into this overly determined disappointment.