Winter’s Tale (2014)

(On Cable TV, December 2015) Oh, what a mess.  A problem with urban fantasy is the tendency to just keep stuffing the story with magic without pausing to reflect on whether it all fits together, and Winter’s Tale has a bad case of dumb world-building piled upon nonsensical mythology.  There’s something about stars being people and not stars, something about Satan and his demon knights, something about having one miracle to spend in one’s lifetime, something about being amnesiac for a century… or whatever.  It barely fits together even as a summary, let alone in the details.  I’m told that the novel on which the film is based is far more coherent, so the blame here would go entirely to writer/director Akiva Goldsman, proving here that almost two decades of bad reviews since Batman & Robin can’t entirely be blamed on directors mangling his scripts.  Interestingly enough, little of the film’s problems affect the actors in it: Colin Farrell is OK as the lead, while Jessica Brown Findlay is very good as the romantic lead despite being burdened with an awful role.  Russell Crowe and Will Smith are curiously enjoyable as the villains of the story, despite (again) not making much sense as such.  Jennifer Connelly looks lost in an underwritten role –one of the many issues with Winter’s Tale is that it jumps forward in time, but can’t be bothered to decide whether the circa-2014 story is a third act or an epilogue.  (But then again, the film is so bad at math or elementary logic that in 2014, one of the non-magical characters should be 108 years old.)  Interminable digressions help make the film feel even longer than it is, while fairly good production values can’t paper over the dumb script.  It’s one of the defining characteristics of bad movies that whatever profound sentiment they try to express is met with eye-rolling and accusations of pretentiousness, but by the time Winter’s Tale last few moment try to smother viewers in a gelatinous gloop of unearned sentiment, you too will understand why the film is more laughable than interesting.

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