Peter (Colin Farrell) and Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) take a ride on Peter’s mysterious magical horse in Winter’s Tale (photo by Davide C. Lee/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
 Since Winter’s Tale is a romantic fable starring the dreamy Colin Farrell, you might assume it’s the perfect flick to take your date to on Valentine’s Day.   But you’d be wrong. Good Lord, would you be wrong. Judging from the audience at a recent preview screening, this would-be tear-jerker is likely to leave you laughing hysterically. And not in a good way.   Scripted and helmed by first-time director Akiva Goldsman—whose past writing achievements range from A Beautiful Mind to the ludicrous Batman & Robin—this adaptation of Mark Helprin’s acclaimed novel has so many problems that it’s hard to know where to begin.   Farrell plays Peter Lake, a crook in early 20th century New York who’s gotten on the wrong side of the crime lord who raised him, Pearly Soames. Pearly is played by Russell Crowe.   OK, that’s a good place to begin.   Crowe portrays Pearly with a menacing demeanor and a growled Irish brogue, making him such an over-the-top depiction of evil that his Javert from Les Miserables is a work of art by comparison.     But we can’t blame this whole mess on poor Crowe. A far worse problem is the script’s goofy take on the cosmos.   In its version of reality, the stars are really deceased beings who’ve turned into angels and flown up into the heavens. Also, we learn that some people are sent to earth to perform miracles for specific other people.   When Peter breaks into a mansion and runs into the wealthy but deathly ill Beverly Penn (Downton Abbey alum Jessica Brown Findlay), some people assume his assigned miracle is to save her life. Unfortunately, one of those people is Pearly, who hates miracles because, well, he’s just that mean.     With help from Peter’s magical horse—did I mention he has a magical horse?—he and Beverly thwart Pearly and his henchmen long enough to fall in love. That’s good for them but bad for us, because their romance is as deadly earnest and overblown as everything else that happens during the flick’s endless 118 minutes.   And that’s really the main problem here: The movie takes itself far too seriously. Except when it doesn’t, as when Pearly visits Lucifer and he turns out to be Will Smith sporting earrings and channeling—Will Smith. One can’t help wondering if Smith decided the only way to escape the film with his reputation untarnished was to treat the whole thing as a throwaway gag.   Late in the proceedings, during one of Beverly’s many voiced-over narrations, she informs us that nothing happens without a purpose. “Nothing,” she repeats.   So, presumably, Winter’s Tale has a purpose. But if you think its purpose is to get your Valentine’s Day evening off to a romantic start, just remember: It won’t. Rating: 1 star (out of 5)

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