** stars 92 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, June 11, 1999
Directed by Maria Ripoll

Starring Douglas Henshall, Lena Headey, Penelope Cruz & Elizabeth McGovern


Good idea for a movie, but script is unoriginal and cliche-driven. See "Sliding Doors" instead. Similar concept (except parallel worlds instead of going back in time), much more creative and charming.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 10/26/99

Douglas Henshall:
"Angels & Insects" (1996)

Penelope Cruz:
"Open Your Eyes" (1999)

Cliches, blunt metaphors cripple charming second-chance romance

By Rob Blackwelder

Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl because he cheats on her. Girl gets engaged to another guy. Boy is miserable. Boy meets magical garbage men who send him back in time for a second chance.

Wait, what was that last one?

Why, that's the plot of "Twice Upon a Yesterday," a fantasy-romance import from England that gives its hard-to-like hero -- a pasty, blonde Scotsman and struggling actor named Victor (Douglas Henshall) -- the opportunity to relive a year of his life and learn a few charming but generic lessons about devotion, karma and fate.

After accosting his ex-girlfriend on the eve of her wedding with one last, groveling, "I promise you I've changed!" plea, Victor gets falling-down drunk and is plucked from the gutter by garbage collectors -- whose characters have been cribbed from "Don Quixote" -- and taken to a dump where one of them makes a metaphysical speech that goes something like "It's all here, the things you threw away..."

Victor spins around with his arms out a couple times and poof, he's gone back in time to before he blew it with sweet, flirty Sylvia (Lena Headey, "Mrs. Dalloway"). Now paranoid about blowing it again, he over-reforms, being Mr. Wonderful for a while but quickly becoming the kind of too-nice guy that women for some reason find repellent.

And thus the tables are turned. Sylvia meets the same guy she became engaged to the first time around, but this time its she who begins an affair. Meanwhile, destiny puts Victor on a path toward Louise (Penelope Cruz), a honey-skinned Spanish bartender with sexy tousled hair, sexy librarian glasses and not a single sweater in her wardrobe that fits over both her supple shoulders at the same time.

Ah, fate.

At the center of "Twice Upon a Yesterday" is an appealing idea -- who wouldn't like to take back a few stupid mistakes? But it suffers from a debilitating bouts of dime store symbolism and cliche-itis in the hands of its rookie director (Maria Ripoll) and screenwriter (Rafa Russo).

For a while, the movie is warming and romantic. Headey and Cruz ("Open Your Eyes," "Hi-Lo Country") flesh out their girlfriend roles beautifully, making the audience (or at least me) fall in love with each of them in turn. Henshall ("Angels & Insects") shrewdly lends his Victor a certain sympathetic leaning in spite of his often unappealing persona.

But the director never establishes why we should get behind this guy who doesn't seem to glean any lessons from his circumstances without being hit over the head with blunt metaphors.

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