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Film review: ‘Winter’s Tale’ can’t decide between magic and realism

Ah, love. And time travel. And magical horses.
Jeffrey M. Anderson

Two and a half stars

Winter's Tale Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay. Directed by Akiva Goldsman. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.

Wildly successful screenwriter-turned-producer Akiva Goldsman has made a career out of over-explained, half-witted movies ranging from Batman & Robin to Angels & Demons, so it’s practically a threat that he has subsequently turned director, and taken Mark Helprin’s beloved 1983 novel Winter’s Tale with him.

Oddly, the result is more just okay than it is howlingly terrible. It’s as if Goldsman learned everything about directing from Ron Howard, with whom he’s collaborated four times. Winter’s Tale is competent and serviceable, without ever becoming extraordinary or exhibiting any personality or artistry.

Colin Farrell’s presence at least adds some meat to the movie. He plays Peter Lake, an orphaned thief in 1916 New York City who falls in love with the consumptive Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay) and believes it’s his destiny to save her, with the help of a flying white horse. One hundred years later, he’s somehow still alive and finds that he has a different destiny.

It’s supposed to be magic realism, but the movie flips back and forth between magic and realism, without ever finding a tone for both at the same time. This allows the movie to get away with some ridiculously goopy moments, but other moments are simply ridiculous.


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  • A balance of strong humor with serious danger and uncertainty with a cast full of great actors.

  • Remarkably, the film gradually neutralizes its apparent protagonist, adding to a harrowing experience.

  • Ken Jeong has had scene-stealing roles as oddball characters, but a little of his manic energy goes a long way.

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