The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Film review: Implausible, corny 'Winter's Tale' melts in its own sweet syrup

  • Print

"Miracles can happen," says the trailer for "Winter's Tale," starring Colin Farrell and based on the 1983 novel of the same name.

Fair enough. But not long into the actual movie, you'll soon start to doubt that. Because you'll realize that this movie truly needs a miracle to save it from ending up a soppy, syrupy mess. And, sorry to say, that miracle never comes.

In (lukewarm) defence of screenwriter-director Akiva Goldsman ("A Beautiful Mind"), it's always tricky to adapt a popular novel. For one thing, people who've read it have preconceived notions of how things should be. And Mark Helprin's novel is a long one, meaning the author had plenty of room and time to weave his tale, as subtly as he wanted.

But Goldsman employs all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. From the beginning, we're asked to relinquish all sense of logic and reason, and accept that impossible, unexplainable things are happening. That would all be fine, in a film made with wit and charm and a breezy sense of magic. It's been done.

But not here.

The good news? Only this: Colin Farrell is hugely appealing, and his natural charm is almost enough to make you forget the silliness of the rest of it. Almost.

The film begins, briefly, in the present day, to which it will later return. A man finds a box, which he hopes will give him some clues to who he is. Which he doesn't know. But we don't really know that yet.

Flashback to 1895. An immigrant couple with a baby is trying to enter the country, but they're turned away due to illness. On the boat back home, they set their baby son afloat onto a tiny wooden boat, like Moses, so he can float back to the promised land.

Now we get to 1916 (stay with us.) That boy's grown up to be Peter Lake, who makes his way in New York as a petty thief. We learn he's at odds with a former boss, Pearly Soames (played by Russell Crowe in an almost comically unpleasant, sinister performance.) Soames wants nothing more than to kill Peter — "and I want him to stay dead," he says. At a key moment, that seems about to happen, but a snow-white horse shows up to save Peter and whisk him away.

And then he meets Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay from "Downton Abbey.") The lovely young woman is the daughter of a newspaper magnate and is, alas, suffering from consumption. Peter breaks into her beautiful home to rob it, but soon she's offered him a cup of tea. And they are falling in love.

Can Peter save the dying Beverly through the force of his love? Has he been placed on earth in service of a higher plan? Will Soames be able to follow through on his goal of extinguishing Peter's life, or lives?

Readers of the book will be able to answer those questions. But here's one they won't be able to answer: What the heck is Will Smith doing in this movie?

Smith doesn't have too much screen time, but the scenes he does have are rather ludicrous. Again, it might all make more sense to fans of the book. But you shouldn't have to have read the book to be able to see and enjoy the movie.

"Winter's Tale" opens on Valentine's Day, at a time when you might have a softer spot for romantic fantasy than you ordinarily would. And there are some touching moments, courtesy of Farrell and Findlay. Farrell in particular knows how to deliver sentimental dialogue and make it sound less so.

But to overcome the corniness of this movie? That would take magical powers that he doesn't possess.

"Winter's Tale," a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "violence and some sensuality." Running time: 118 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

____

MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Paul Maurice addresses media at end of 13/14 season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • July 1, 2012 - 120701  -   Canada Day fireworks at The Forks from the Norwood Bridge Sunday, July 1, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
  • Susan and Gary Harrisonwalk their dog Emma on a peaceful foggy morning in Assiniboine Park – Standup photo– November 27, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you agree with the province’s crackdown on flavoured tobacco products?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google