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Twice Upon A Yesterday

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Twice Upon A Yesterday

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In the engaging but slight British comedy Twice Upon A Yesterday, two quixotic garbage collectors magically transport out-of-work Scottish actor Douglas Henshall (Angels And Insects) back in time so he can prevent a breakup with his beloved ex-girlfriend, Lena Headey (Mrs. Dalloway). Despite the advantage of knowing what the future holds, Henshall still finds it difficult to steer fate in the right direction, especially once attractive new partners (Mark Strong and Penélope Cruz) enter their lives. Less than a decade ago, this premise might have sounded original and full of endless potential, but after 1993's brilliant Groundhog Day and such lesser imitators as Sliding Doors, it no longer seems fresh for a romantic comedy to disrupt the space-time continuum. Part of the problem is that Groundhog Day, because it set time on a loop, swiftly introduced and exhausted most of the possibilities. A simple montage in which Bill Murray gets his face slapped again and again neatly sums up everything Twice Upon A Yesterday has to say about the futility of trying to calculate matters of the heart. First-time director María Ripoll picks from a buffet of styles and tones, resulting in a queasy mix of surrealism and sitcom whimsy, reggae and soft jazz, flaky British comedy and portentous after-hours ambiance. The cast acquits itself nicely, particularly Cruz (Open Your Eyes, Pedro Almodóvar's forthcoming All About My Mother) in an underwritten role, but no one has the force of personality to carry Twice Upon A Yesterday through its sketchy, instantly forgettable episodes.