Winter's Tale

Directed By: Akiva Goldsman

Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Eva Marie Saint, Will Smith, and William Hurt

We've got no originality at the box office this Valentine's Day weekend.  Three of the movies arriving in theaters are remakes of films from the 80s.  While I certainly don't mind the new RoboCop, three remakes in the same weekend is a bit much.  However, that's not enough for Hollywood.  There's another film arriving in theaters this weekend, an adaptation of Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale.  In fact, that novel was written in the 80s too.  I was born in the 80s, so I have no issues with the decade.  Still, this is 2014 and Hollywood needs to step outside its time capsule a bit.

Unable to make the journey to Ellis Island because of a pulmonary infection, an ailing father and mother (Matt Bomer and Lucy Griffiths) put their little boy Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) in a model ship called City of Justice and send him sailing toward Ellis Island.  The child is found and raised by some locals in New York.  As fate would have it, he turns out to be a thief.  An adult Peter Lake works for Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) until they have a dispute one day.  Because of this dispute, Pearly wants Peter dead and sends his men after the young thief.  While evading Pearly and his henchmen, Peter encounters a white stallion whom he rides to safety.  With his new friend, Peter is on his way out of town.  Before leaving, however, he'll do what he does best and rob a few homes.

A smart thief prefers to rob an empty place, and Peter Lake is no fool.  Despite this, the last home he robs on his way out of town is not empty.  On his way to the Coheeries with his family, homeowner Isaac Penn (William Hurt) leaves one loved one at home.  Peter only sees Penn and his family leaving and believes the house to be empty.  While cracking a safe in Penn’s house, Peter encounters the beautiful Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay).  Though he's wielding a gun after forcibly entering her home, Beverly is not afraid of him.  In fact, she has tea with him.  It's love at first sight for the two, and Peter's plans to leave New York are scrapped.  There are a couple of problems with their newfound love though.  The 21 year-old Beverly is dying of consumption.  Also, Pearly won't allow for Peter to have a happy ending and will do whatever he must to stop the miracle of love.

I have my reservations about Winter's Tale.  First and foremost, it's boring as hell.  Clocking in at 118 minutes, the film is a truly torturous experience.  The first half hour or so is an unabated lull, the stuff that could put the most energetic person to sleep.  It feels like director Akiva Goldsman is going through the motions of retelling Helprin's tale without any energy, without any zest.  This results in utter boredom for us the audience.  Beyond that, the movie has no magic or wonder.  For a movie based on a romantic fantasy with angels, demons, and flying horses, that's pretty bad.  When she should be following the playbook of Matthew Vaughn's Stardust, Goldsman instead follows that of many failed films that have come before it.

Though it boasts a strong ensemble, the cast of Winter's Tale leaves a lot to be desired as well.  At the forefront of it all, we've got Colin Farrell giving a rather bland performance as the reformed thief and lover Peter Lake.  Love is clearly not his miracle on screen.  For his part as Peter's nemesis Pearly Soames, Russell Crowe gives a downright cartoonish performance.  He huffs and puffs but never quite blows the house down with his overacting.  That's pretty surprising considering he has an assist from the bizarrely cast Lucifer/Judge, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air himself.  For his part as the devil incarnate, Will Smith is a cross between a hipster and an S&M aficionado.  I can’t even take his performance seriously because of his attire.  Lastly, we have Jessica Brown Findlay.  She brings the mildest romantic spark to the film and fails to enchant us in this fairly rich role.  She gives us a light, airy interpretation of a rather meaty character.

It suffices to say that I have little love for Winter's Tale, but we all can honor the film in one way.  For all those who dare watch this boring romance, let's have a few rounds of Red Headed Sluts.  Winter's Tale gets a wasted rating.