Angels versus demons verses you the audience

Winter’s Tale proves winter’s stale at the movies

Winter’s Tale is the ultimate teen Christian girl’s stroke fantasy a saccharine love story overflowing with castles pretty ponies with rainbow-patterned butterfly wings and literally star-crossed love. It’s so maudlin and boneheaded that only the most sheltered and childlike viewer would scrape any joy from its sickly sweet innards. Contrary to what one character says in the movie Winter’s Tale is proof that if there is a God he hates us.

Based on the novel by Mark Helprin Winter’s Tale would take a week to unravel its nonsensical plot but we’ll try anyway. Peter Lake (a very very bored Colin Farrell) is a scrappy thief living on the tough streets of New York circa 1890. When we first meet him he’s on the run from evil gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe sporting a hilariously unidentifiable accent). Pearly corners Peter but our hero discovers a blindingly white magical horse with ethereal rainbow butterfly wings that flies him away to safety. Oh yeah Peter is an orphan. There are some introductory scenes showing his parents getting denied entry into Ellis Island infant Peter in tow. In desperation they load the baby onto a model sailboat and drop him in the water hoping he’ll sail to shore and a better life in America. (Worst parents ever!)

Peter lives in the attic of Grand Central Station but that doesn’t matter. (More plot; it never ends.) He plans to make a couple of scores before trotting off to Florida but fate has different plans. He crosses paths with Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay) a young woman gently and beautifully dying of tuberculosis. Peter falls deeply in love. Not so fast! Here comes Pearly who figures that by killing Beverly he’ll halt Peter’s miracle. See Pearly is a demon (not the devil himself; I won’t spoil that hilarious reveal) and it’s his job to reduce the number of miracles in the world. The angry demon deduces that Peter and Beverly have the kind of love that’ll tip the scales between good and evil. But before Pearly can fight Peter he has to become human and blah blah blah.

Bev’s dad Isaac (William Hurt) is suspicious of Peter’s intentions towards his daughter but only for like 10 minutes. No sooner do Peter and Bev make sweet sweet consumption-fuelled love before she dies. Or does she? The film skips forward a hundred years where we find Peter now sporting a greasy leonine mane wandering the streets of New York. He can’t remember his name or where he came from. That is until he meets Virginia Gamely (Jennifer Connelly) and her dying daughter and this shit starts all over again.

Director (and perpetrator of the screenplay) Akiva Goldsman whips it all into a frothy romance full of CGI castles and G-rated baddies. It’s distractingly cheap looking and all of the performances are alternately hysterical and dull. It’s the kind of film that doesn’t even come close to justifying its offensive coda where a little girl dying of cancer is saved with a loving kiss. With that scene in particular Goldsman bypasses whatever his idea of romance is and goes straight towards the bewildering and icky. (This in a movie that also features not one but two or three scenes where the villain finds our hero by shining starlight on a tray full of jewels. That probably makes no sense; neither does this movie.)

Winter’s Tale will appeal to the handful of people who thought The Time Traveler’s Wife (remember that one?) was everything a romantic drama should be. If you’re looking for a romantic flick this Valentine’s Day according to the listings this looks like… your only option. Sorry.