Review: Hulu’s ‘11.22.63’ is not worth the time travel – USA TODAY

8 months ago Comments Off on Review: Hulu’s ‘11.22.63’ is not worth the time travel – USA TODAY

If Stephen King could go back in time, maybe he’d decide to stop selling his books to television.

With rare exceptions — the first half of It, much of The Stand — King’s TV forays have ranged from dull to disastrous. Yet here he is, gamely trying again, this time with Hulu’s 11.22.63 (weekly episodes starting Monday, ** out of four). And despite having placed his well-reviewed book into the extremely able hands of producer J.J. Abrams, he has once again landed on “dull,” thanks to a screenplay by Bridget Carpenter that never begins to justify the miniseries’ eight-hour length and a performance from star James Franco that practically defines erratic.

Franco is Jake Epping, a lonely high school teacher who discovers that the pantry in his friend Al’s (Chris Cooper) diner is actually a portal to the past. (And not just anywhere in the past, but a specific day in 1960.) Al is dying, so he persuades Jake to pick up his big project: Go back and stop the assassination of President Kennedy, and with it (or so Al thinks) the war in Vietnam.

The trip comes with one warning: The past does not want to be changed, and it will fight back if you try. Sadly, that turns out to be both a good and a badly developed idea  — there are long stretches where the past seems to forget what it wants, or when its fights back in ways that are either out of scale or ineffectual.

Jake now has to find a way to survive in the past until 1963, all while trying to make sure history is right and Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) is the man he needs to stop. So while he shadows Oswald, with the not-always-effective help of his new friend Bill (George MacKay), he takes a job at a suburban Dallas school. And there, he falls in love with Sadie (Sarah Gadon), who makes Jake’s adoration make perfect sense.

Intentionally or not, what you end up with is two movies that don’t always happily coexist: A fantasy version of 24, complete with that series’ sometimes annoying time-wasting obstacles, paired with a star-crossed romance. And to make matters worse, Franco is only convincing in the love story, where he does his best work. When he’s asked to turn into a time-traveling Jack Bauer, his reactions to the crisis spinning around him too often seem off.

The shame is that the performances around Franco are almost uniformly terrific, starting with Webber, Cooper, MacKay and Gadon and including Cherry Jones, Josh Duhamel, Nick Searcy, T.R. Knight and Tonya Pinkins. And while we’re counting things on the plus side, add that 63 looks terrific, and that unlike most King TV adaptations, it actually sticks the landing

Luckily, there’s no reason to slog through eight episodes to get there. If 63 bores but you want to know how it all turns out, just wait for the final episode and skip to the end.

Think of it as our own form of time travel.

Review: Hulu’s ‘11.22.63’ is not worth the time travel – USA TODAY

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