“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” falters with tired time-loop trope

Kathryn Newton and Kyle Allen in The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (2021) / Amazon Prime

If there is anything more heartbreaking than unrequited love, it’s the death of a loved one.

The new Amazon Prime film “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” deals gently with both subjects, although, maybe a bit too gently to ultimately be affective.

The film uses the familiar sci-fi trope of a time loop that now is now officially overused. When characters in a movie actually cite examples of other films like “Groundhog’s Day” and “Edge of Tomorrow” as references to explain to other characters what they are experiencing, the trope is experiencing its last gasp.

That said the film does present some rather inventive and funny escapades for main characters Margaret (Kathryn Newton) and Mark (Kyle Allen) to explore while they deal with re-living the same day over and over again.

The two youngish actors have fine chemistry together, and it’s fun to go along for the ride with them as they take advantage of knowing exactly what is going to happen in any given second of their day, and how to take advantage of or help with those circumstances.

The film has a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” feel to it that is charming. However, when a movie reminds you of so many other better films, it draws you out of the experience rather than into it.

The good feeling begins to sour when Margaret has to leave Mark at a certain time each day, and when she begins to rebuff his advances to take their relationship beyond mere friendship.

Mark automatically assumes Margaret is meeting a boyfriend each evening, but that’s hardly the case.

Here the stakes of the film, directed by Ira Samuels from a screenplay by Lev Grossman, grow in magnitude, and Mark begins to slowly mature as a character, similarly to how Bill Murray’s does in “Groundhog’s Day.”

After a falling out with Margaret, Mark begins to relate to his sister, father, and mother more than in the past. As he gains empathy for them and their concerns, he gains understanding for Margaret. This is where Mark learns what issues Margaret is actually struggling with when she leaves him each evening.

Though the movie does interestingly show Mark’s growth from being self-centered to understanding that life is composed of and made better by the symbiotic relationships we share with one another, the film ultimately is a bit flat from using other better movies as a story-telling crutch.

The movie never reaches its full potential as a romantic-comedy or a more serious exploration of our need to bond and take time for grieving.

I do look forward to seeing where both Newton and Allen go with their careers. They both give appealing performances; however, the material ultimately lets them down.

Grade: C

New in Local Theaters

  • The Violent Heart(NR) 1 hr. 37 min. (watch trailer). Playing at: Malco Razorback

Classic Corner – Mad Love

Mad Love / Universal Pictures

The 1930s was one creepy decade on the big screen. When Universal Pictures hit it big in 1931 with debuts of “Dracula” and “Frankenstein,” other studios attempted over and over to find similar box-office success by frightening cinema goers out of their seats.

Though MGM was known for “higher class” of films, the studio wasn’t afraid to dip its toe in the scare game as well. Thankfully we have the cult classic “Mad Love,” as a result. The film is a harrowing story of love gone wrong in a movie that featured the American film debut of Peter Lorre.

Lorre came to Hollywood to star in the adaptation of “Crime and Punishment,” but when it was delayed, Lorre, whose claim to fame was his featured role as the child-murderer in “M,” opted to play another creep in this adaption of the French novel “The Hands of Dr. Orlac.”

“Mad Love” is a tale of unrequited love and horror as Lorre’s character Dr. Gogol becomes infatuated with with actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake) only to discover that she was married to Stephen, played by Colin Clive, who famously starred as Dr. Frankenstein in the original 1931 film and the 1935 sequel, “The Bride of Frankenstein.”

After being rebuffed, Gogol buys a wax figure of Yvonne and refers to it as Galatea, the statue which came to life in Greek mythology.

When Stephen’s hands are mutilated in a train accident, the accident brings Gogol back into his and his wife’s life. Yvonne pleads with Gogol to help her husband to regain the use of his hands.

Gogol helps by transplanting the hands of an executed knife-thrower onto Stephen’s body, which somehow imbues Stephen with the skills of the murderous performer. Now, at the drop of the hat, Stephen begins to uncontrollably throw fountain pens and knives with deadly precision.

Stephen is aghast when he learns the murderer’s hands have been grafted onto his body. Gogol assumed Yvonne would return his affection when she learned the truth about Stephen’s hands, but she spurns Gogol’s mad advances.

While the movie’s plot is preposterous, the film is a whole lot of fun thanks to Lorre’s over-the-top performance as Gogol, which no doubt help cement the Hollywood caricature of the mad scientist in popular culture.

Master cinematographer Greg Toland, who would gain fame six years later for his work in Orson Wells’ “Citizen Kane” lent his lens to the movie, making the outlandish production look magnificently polished.

While the movie isn’t as entertaining as director James Whale’s “Frankenstein” or “The Old Dark House,” “Mad Love” is similarly seminal in establishing patterns for horror that can still be noticed in modern movies.

“Mad Love” plays at 11 a.m. Saturday on Turner Classic Movies.