DVD Release Date: June 24, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: February 14, 2014
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some sensuality
Genre: Fantasy
Run Time: 118 min.
Director: Akiva Goldsman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Will Smith, Eva Marie Saint

A 30-year-old fantasy novel has found its way to the silver screen, with contributions from cinematic storytellers who have sparkled in the past: Winter’s Tale is a beloved book by author Mark Helprin, while sceenwriter Akiva Goldsman won an Oscar for his adaptation of A Beautiful Mind. With those credentials, Goldsman seemed like he might be the ideal candidate to bring Helprin's jewel of a story to the big screen.

But not everything Goldsman has touched has turned to gold. Remember Practical Magic (1998) or Batman and Robin (1997), the film George Clooney recently said had a bad screenplay? Both were based on Goldsman scripts. For Winter’s Tale, Goldsman also donned the director’s hat—never mind that his previous directing experience is limited to a few episodes of TV. Could he pull together all the threads of Helprin’s book in his screenplay and keep control of the project while behind the camera?

Alas, Winter's Tale is no gem. What seemed like it might be a fantastic, magical story feels instead awkwardly stitched together, even laughable when not outright confusing. Despite some nice work from cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (The Passion of the Christ), Winter’s Tale is a soggy, sometimes ugly story that can’t decide what kind of tale it wants to tell.

The story, which hops from 1895 to 2014, begins in New York, with voiceover narration that explains, for the first of many times, that "we are all connected"—shades of Cloud Atlas, although Winter's Tale doesn't have the same scope or emphases as Atlas. Tale is more interested in setting up a spiritual battle in which Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe, Broken City) chases Peter Lake (Colin Farrell, Saving Mr. Banks) in an effort to prevent Lake from fulfilling his destiny. That destiny has something to do with Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a beautiful but doomed woman afflicted with consumption, whom Lake, a thief, meets while in the midst of robbing her home.

Once the beautiful Penn declares she's "never been kissed on the mouth" and has a year-and-a-half left to live, it's not hard to predict that Lake will take that more as a challenge than a warning. A deadly, contagious disease is no match for two attractive, love-struck leads.

The more immediate threat is Soames, who intends great harm for his former protégé Lake—if only Lake didn't keep escaping Soames' grasp. A winged white horse helps Lake stay a step ahead of Soames and his henchmen, although the fantastical creature fails to register much more than a shrug from Soames' jaded crew. Maybe it’s all par for the course, considering Soames is not exactly of this earth: he's a demon doing the bidding of his boss (an unexpected Will Smith), although the flying horse repeatedly bedevils him.