A politician on the rebound after a failed campaign gets to ponder what might have been when his high school girlfriend returns from a 20 year space journey in “The Time Capsule.” It’s a downbeat, wistful and entirely-too-quiet romantic drama that could use a little more romance and a lot more drama in a story that downplays the science fiction, and most everything else.
It’s about young love interrupted, put on pause and revisited thanks to “time dilation.”
“Desperate Housewives” and “With Love” alumnus Todd Grinell plays a Senate candidate whose campaign imploded in an unguarded, profane blast of public enthusiasm for schools in front of school kids. Now he and his ambitious-enough-for-them-both wife (KaDee Strickland of TV’s “Shut Eye” and “Private Practice”) are headed to his family’s old lake house down South.
Our first tip that this is “somewhere else in time” is at the rental car agency. “Self-driving” is an option. Cell phones have holographic projectors. And that “old” lake house is a modernist McMansion, “modern” by 1970s standards.
Former Congressman Jack barely has time to reminisce over a digital photo album of his high school girlfriend when BOOM — there she is in the supermarket. Elise (Brianna Hildebrand of “Deadpool”) still looks 18. She took a trip far away “to the colony.” She came back. Cryo-sleep was involved.
Now Jack’s 40 and Elise is, well a bit mature for her age but still a kid.
“Who cares that you look like some creepy old dude” in her presence, his old pal (Baron Vaughn) blurts, in a tipsy moment? Well, he does, and we dare say his hard-driving have-a-baby-it’ll-help-the-next-campaign wife.
And we as viewers do, as well. Which makes the very premise of “The Time Capsule” more icky than romantic or nostalgic.
The “big ideas” wrestled with here are the stuff of many a high school reunion dramedy. “Most people don’t get to see how everybody turned out” before they themselves “turn out,” wife-Maggie notes.
Elise “can’t relate to people I used to know because they all think I’m just a child.”
And Jack, when he isn’t mooning over Elise or indulging her and his arrested-development pal Patrice (Vaughn) by hitting their old night club (Elise gets carded), can’t help but act a little fatherly and sage to the teenager on his arm.
“As you get older, disappointments add up.”
Icky moments aside — and cast and crew work hard to avoid them– nothing that’s wrestled with here wouldn’t have fit in a “Twilight Zone” episode — the 30 minute version.
There’s little chemistry between the leads, the dialogue has a drab, lifeless Lifetime Original Movie quality and the sci-fi elements are limited to mundane layman’s-eye-view takes on space travel and a dash of the technology that’s replaced fireworks — “artificial meteor showers.”
The political stuff, in which Jack questions his commitment and the phoniness of his image because Elise reminds him of his more outspoken, passionate youth, is mildly interesting at most.
It all adds up to a blasé sci-fi variation of “If I knew then what I know now,” so blasé that it dares to trot out that moth-eaten old expression in an attempt at third act profundity.
Rating: unrated, profanity, alcohol and cannabis abuse.
Cast: Todd Grinell, Brianna Hildebrand, KaDee Strickland, Baron Vaughn, Nelson Padilla and Ravi Patel
Credits: Directed by Erwann Marshall, scripted by Erwann Marshall, Chad Fifer. A FilmRise release.
Running time: 1:43