THIS VALENTINE'S DAY, if you're looking for a not-completely-horrendous romance that includes time travel, a magical flying horse, a cancer kid, and Will Smith playing the devil, I'm afraid you have to keep looking, because Winter's Tale is completely, entirely, irredeemably horrendous.
The directorial debut of Akiva Goldsman (screenwriter of Batman and Robin), Winter's Tale is an adaptation of Mark Helprin's 1983 magic realism novel. Colin Farrell, 37, plays Peter Lake, a plucky 21-year-old thief abandoned by his parents in a toy boat set adrift in New York Harbor when he was just a baby. Russell Crowe plays Pearly, a demon that wants to kill Peter for unexplained reasons. Luckily, Peter finds a white flying horse he cleverly names "Horse" that swoops him out of trouble whenever Pearly gets too close. Pearly, for his part, seems to keep mistaking the horse for a dog, in what is Goldsman's idea of a keen joke.
Hang on, because I haven't even gotten to where the movie gets stupid. Peter breaks into the mansion of a rich man (William Hurt), thinking the place is abandoned, but Hurt's red-haired daughter Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) is home tickling the ivories, and the two fall immediately in love before so much as exchanging a word to each other. Turns out radiant, glowing Bev is dying from "consumption," which means she has to sleep on the roof in the dead of winter in order to keep her body temperature down, and can't do strenuous activities like kissing, dancing, or fucking.
Indeed, when Peter does fuck her, she dies in his arms instantly. (Of course, Pearly is behind her death, not Peter's spectacular but presumably non-lethal little peter.) Peter tries to use his "miracle" to bring her back to life on a specially made bed designed to bring a redhead back to life after a magical kiss, but to no avail. Oh, I guess in this movie every person is capable of performing a single "miracle" at some point in his or her life, and I've just explained this plot point better to you than the movie does.
After dead Bev's funeral, Peter mopes around until 98 years have passed. Not having aged a day, he encounters Sad Mom (Jennifer Connelly), and her chatty, precocious cancer kid who ALSO has red hair, and there are prophecies and lots of twinkly sparkles and two scenes where Will Smith plays the devil. To his credit, even Smith seems embarrassed by this debacle. Crowe, for his part, barely articulates his lines out loud, in a career low in what has been an astonishing run of near-career lows.
I could keep going on about Winter's Tale. I could tell you about the scene where Farrell and Hurt bond by repairing a furnace that is about to explode and kill the entire household. (The early 20th century must have been riddled with death tolls in the millions from similarly exploding furnaces.) I could tell you that the movie seems to believe the entire Hudson River is capable of freezing to rock-solid levels of hardness in wintertime. I could tell you that Eva Marie Saint plays a woman who, by the movie's math, is well into her 100s but is still able to hang onto her job as a tough-as-nails publisher of one of New York's biggest newspapers (Saint looks terrific, by the way). Winter's Tale is a wrongheaded, icky catastrophe of such monumental and widespread proportions, it's enough to make a grown person weep. So yeah, it's a tearjerker—but for all the wrong reasons.