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Winter’s Tale

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Mark Helprin’s novel Winter’s Tale may well have been redeemed by its fantasy romance genre, but the same can’t be said of this film version by director Akiva Goldsman.

Colin Farrell sports an annoying haircut and perpetual five o’clock shadow in his role as turn-of-the-century thief Peter Lake. He’s on the run, having fallen out with demon New York gang-boss Pearly Soames (played by Russell Crowe, who relishes every maniacal tick and twitch he can).

Soames suffers wing-envy – honestly, he’s curious as to why angels would trade in their lovely wings and come to Earth as humans. He really enjoys being a baddy; virgin blood in the snow gets him going. Then there’s his boss, “the Judge”, aka Lucifer (Will Smith). It is terrible. Old Testament gone sentimental spiritual something; pop psychology, crackpot philosophy twaddle.

Excruciating exposition in the dulcet English tone of Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay – Downton Abbey’s dearly departed Sybil) prepares us for Peter Lake to be love-struck when he least expects it. The winsome lass is sadly consumptive, though suffering TB unlike any other has likely done, and that’s including every opera diva you’ve seen. There’s a strange compelling horror in watching William Hurt as her newspaper magnate father.

Some of the winter city and upstate scenery in Winter’s Tale is captivating, but the computer graphics are embarrassing. Even the soundtrack offers no redemption, swollen with portentous import.

Who is the intended audience? With what wit are they credited? Movies made for child viewers are more likely to have integrity. With a protagonist lost in an amnesiac fog for nearly a century and plot holes smacking you in the head, you know not to take this flick too seriously.

There are movies about angels or stars come down to Earth that you can still love and respect, such as Wings of Desire or Stardust, but Winter’s Tale is not one of them. And it’s out just in time to suck in unsuspecting dates on Valentine’s Day.

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