Good sci-fier feature headlined by Jeff Daniels, asks a lot but also gives plenty. Director David N. Twohy's imaginative concept about time travelers and smalltown interrelationships offers surefire characters, solid plotting; viewers will find it a welcome challenge.

Good sci-fier feature headlined by Jeff Daniels, asks a lot but also gives plenty. Director David N. Twohy’s imaginative concept about time travelers and smalltown interrelationships offers surefire characters, solid plotting; viewers will find it a welcome challenge.

Widower Daniels and refreshingly spunky daughter Ariana Richards, converting a comfortable Ohio house into an inn, are surprised by a troupe of odd-acting tourists whom local van driver Jim Haynie picked up in the middle of a road.

Insisting they must stay at the unfinished inn, they win Daniels over with a wad of money if not by their behavior.

Daniels picks up on their ignorance of everyday chores like tying shoelaces and using telephones.

When he confronts one of them, he’s warned that he and Richards better clear out if they want to live. Exotic blonde Emilia Crow, one of the tourists, serves him an odd tea (it’s not clear why he’d drink it), and her chums refer to an impending “spectacle” without explanation.

A meteorite hits town in full sight of the tourists. When a second disaster strikes, Daniels catches on to who the binoculars-toting tourists are. Because of his antagonistic father-in-law George Murdock, a local judge, Daniels has to fight the fight alone. He comes up with a nifty solution.

Film sags at one point as if the whole thing’s over, but once it regains its momentum “Disaster in Time” charges energetically ahead, though the ending isn’t really plausible.

But director Twohy knows what he’s doing, and the production surges with energy.

Daniels, again playing the not-so-average Everyman, makes his character and the situations surprisingly credible as he fights on alone. His scenes with Richards are charming, and the battles with the revengeful Murdock are first-rate. As the beset hero, Daniels makes fantasy believable.

Marilyn Lightstone as the tour leader performs with authority, and Haynie’s tired citizen gives the film balance.

The dependable Murdock and Mary Marsh as his wife are completely convincing. David Wells, the tourist warning Daniels, adds a fillip by giving the character a sense of not only other worldliness but of just plain weariness; nice tourist touch.

Production designer Michael Novotny hands the film a distinctly smalltown flavor, and camerawork by Harry Mathias, editing by Glen A. Morgan are commendable. Gerald Gouriet’s understated score is a definite plus.

Tech credits are terrif.

Disaster in Time

(Sat. (9), 9-10:30 p.m., Showtime)

Production

Filmed in Oregon and L.A. by Wildstreet Pictures. Exec producers, Jill Sattinger, Paul White; producer, John A. O'Connor; co-producer, Robert E. Warner; director/writer, David N. Twohy, based on the novella "Vintage Season" by Lawrence O'Donnell and C.L. Moore.

Crew

Camera, Harry Mathias; editor, Glen A. Morgan; art director, James Hegedus; sound, Mike Florimbi, Vic Carpenter; music, Gerald Gouriet; production designer, Michael Novotny.

Cast

Cast: Jeff Daniels, Ariana Richards, Emilia Crow, Jim Haynie, Marilyn Lightstone, George Murdock, David Wells, Nicholas Guest, Robert Colbert, Time Winters, Anna Neill, Willie Rack, Mimi Craven, Jacquie McClure, Steven Gilborn, Vernon Barkhurst, J.R. Knotts, Jeffrey Concklin, Mary Marsh, Francis Coady, Adele Taylor, Victoria Wanberg, Gus Castaneda, Garon Grigsby, Lori Lively, Walter Shane, Ken Rector, Alex Kathehakis, Nancy Hopps, Dion Cheese, Steve Pershing, Ryan Smith, Scott Watson, Thomas Kent, Brad Whitmore.
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