By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin February 14, 2014 at 12:02AM
I shudder to think what Valentine’s date night will be like for couples who choose to see Winter’s Tale.
First, they will be asked to stretch credulity past the breaking point for the sake of a fantasy premise. Then they’ll have to figure out how Colin Farrell, who was born in 1895, is still alive in 2014. Acceptance of bad-guy Russell Crowe’s Irish accent and facial scar will be easy by comparison, though when the truth about his character is revealed it will be one more obstacle for anyone attempting to swallow this indigestible stew. Whimsy should never be as heavy-handed as this.
Jessica Brown-Findlay, late of Downton Abbey, is a winsome heroine in the 1916 portion of the story, and it’s nice to see Eva Marie Saint in a lovely cameo set in the present day. Other players (William Hurt, Graham Greene, Kevin Corrigan) come and go, while Jennifer Connelly shows up at the eleventh hour to introduce a last-minute story twist. There is also a surprise cameo by a famous actor that I won’t give away; if he’s lucky, few people will see this spectacularly odd performance.
Winter’s Tale tests our patience by introducing an endless parade of half-baked ideas involving angels and demons, love and fate. The actors do their best, given a tedious script by first-time director Akiva Goldsman (who called on Crowe and Connelly, the costars of his Oscar-winner A Beautiful Mind, to participate in this project). The source novel by Mark Helprin runs 800 pages, but since it has a good reputation I must suppose the author provides more substance—and rewards for the reader—than this adaptation can muster.
To be clear, I enjoy a good fantasy and have a high tolerance for sentimentality in movies. This one just doesn’t have what it takes.
The only winter’s tale worth seeing right now is Frozen.