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The Lake House

Movies | Time-travel romance is short on sparks and suspense

Issue: "Books and Movies 2006," July 1, 2006

If a sin of omission is a failure to do good, then perhaps a failure to do bad is a virtue of omission. The Lake House commits virtues of omission aplenty. Except for one or two profanities, the film contains no nudity, sexual immorality, violence, or other gratuitous concessions to bad taste.

Of course, omissions cannot on their own a strong film make, and, while The Lake House (a remake of Hyun-seung Lee's 2000 South Korean film Il Mare, aka Siworae) contributes no cultural pollution, neither does it contribute anything aesthetically salutary.

Directed by Alejandro Agresti (A Less Bad Word, Valentin), The Lake House fails mainly because it vacillates between attempting to create sparks by rubbing together two of Hollywood's hoariest plot devices-time travel and unrequited romance-and attempting to tie those plot devices together with the string of suspense. Ultimately, such sparks as there are merely generate little light on the human condition and just enough heat to singe the suspense till it frays.

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And, frankly, there isn't much suspense. Early on Dr. Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) witnesses a traffic accident in which a man is struck by a vehicle. Despite her best on-the-scene efforts, he dies in her arms. When it is finally revealed that the man was Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves), the architect with whom she has been having the time-travel romance, the revelation is supposed to serve as a climax. But it's obvious from the beginning that Wyler was the slain man. For what other reason does the accident occur on Valentine's Day?

Equally enervating is the time-travel concept itself, which, as is usually the case in such films, goes completely unexplained, burdening viewers with the responsibility of suspending disbelief without any reason to do so-that is, unless the power of love to transcend all boundaries, or some such cliché, is supposed to be a reason.

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