"Winter’s Tale" goes beyond the love at first sight premise, but an overpowering use of magic lessens key scenes.
The film, which switches between a early 19th century and present day New York, early on shows career burglar Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) in the home of dying heiress Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay).
As Lake opens a safe, he is captivated by Penn’s beauty, despite quickly learning about her tuberculosis. His instant love for her keeps him in the city, despite the advances of a villainous, out for revenge Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), who wants to kill Lake because of a past debt.
“Winter’s Tale” builds on the chemistry between Lake and Penn, but loses focus with the use of magic, particularly a flying white horse and some spirits.
The film tries to take a moralistic approach with the use of iconography, particularly references to God and the devil.
One scene, in particular, involves an unintentional humorous cameo from Will Smith.
But, it does not stop there.
“Winter’s Tale” struggles to find an identity as it shifts to present day, coming off as a cross between a poor man’s “A Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008) and “Sleeping Beauty” (1959).
Farrell’s character, an ageless time traveler, seems lost in the now, trying almost half-heartedly to bring Penn back to life.
Still, both Farrell (“Total Recall”) and Findlay’s (“Downton Abbey”) performances hold their own for the most part.
The initial chemistry is convincing, until the magic dilutes it.
However, Crowe’s (“Gladiator”) character is one dimensional and blindly narcissistic.
The Academy-Award winner is usually stout, but falters in his performance with sloppy, predictable dialogue.
Meanwhile, the camera angles, which include citywide shots of a gliding horse over New York City, are beautiful, but unrealistic.
The special effects are unconvincing; especially in one scene where cars fall into icy waters, almost systematically.
The ice cracks too easily.
Despite its flaws, “Winter’s Tale” is more than a run of the mill, boy meets girl love story.
The magic element just clouds any real chance at an engaging plot.
The use of the mystical is too much throughout the film’s 129-minute runtime, devaluing an otherwise believable script.