Cinequest 2024 – Tim Travers and the Time Traveler’s Paradox

This one of a series of reviews from this year’s Cinequest film festival in San Jose, California. Read more about the festival here, and buy tickets for showings of this and other films here.

A scientist creates a time machine in order to kill their younger self, simply to see what would happen. And that self-obsessed, misanthrope, mad genius of a scientist is Tim Travers.

But, as is soon learned, the universe was bad enough with only one of him!!!

Samuel Dunning as Tim Travers

I love time travel stories. The dramatic ones, the action ones, and especially the comedic ones. And yes, jumping into our particular future, I loved Tim Travers and the Time Traveler’s Paradox. I mean, what’s not to love? You’ve got a completely whacked premise, a cast of genre fan favorites, and just enough budget visible in the film to make it carry the premise without a lot of stuff having to occur off-camera (which is a trademark of low-budget SF.)

So what makes it whacked? Well, our hero is not the most ethical person alive. Like good old Doc Brown, Tim (Samuel Dunning) is using dangerous radio-active materials that were acquired through shady dealings. He’s not quite sure what he’s trying to prove, hasn’t thought the whole experiment through; can paradoxes exist, or can you prove they don’t exist, or is it all about creating a paradox and then uncreating it. He’s not quite there on the scientific basics. But he’s nuts and fun to watch.

Fan Favorite Felicia Day

And about those genre fan favorites? Yeah, you’ve got Felicia Day (The Guild, Supernatural, Mystery Science Theatre 3000) who pulls double duty as a first date pulled into all this nonsense while serving as an executive producer for the film. Then there’s the annoyingly conspiracy-theory focused podcaster appropriately played by Joel McHale (Community, Animal Control) who does podcast occasionally in real life. Finally we drop OG small budget gagnsta Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk till Dawn, Spy Kids) to brighten up the crazy in the third act. Yeah, this is hitting on all fanboy cylinders.

Paradoxically, Danny Trejo is always a welcome addition.

And about that budget thing. We do live in the paradoxical world where larger effects budgets don’t always mean more convincing effects. Sure there’s a certain Adobe After Effects taste to much of what goes on here, but it’s still very well done. Inspired even. The effect that is most important, and is carried off almost flawlessly, is evident in scenes where the single Samuel Dunning has to act against a many versions of Tim Travers. Keeping the subtle nuances of them developing different personalities straight is roughly the equivalent of working a dozen films at once. To be sure, the hero of this film is the real-life Dunning playing the multiple Tim Travers.

Not going to spoil anything other than 1) you won’t guess how a throw-off joke early in the film becomes the most important aspect of the finale, so pay attention. And 2) yes, Chekhov’s Football did come from somewhere and don’t dash out of the film before the credits run through.

Time Travel… just that easy.

So, to summarize, when film festival entries advertise themselves as “science fiction” or “comedy” they typically tend to underperform on the finer aspects of both descriptions. It is wonderful to find a festival entry that exceeds expectations on both fronts. If you like SF, or like to laugh, this is a must-see for Cinequest.

March 9 at 7 PM
March 13 at 2:20 PM
More info and tickets here

Ric Bretschneider
March 8, 2024
San Jose, California

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