*/**** Image B+ Sound A Extras D+
starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe
screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, based on the novel by Mark Helprin
directed by Akiva Goldsman
by Walter Chaw Cloud Atlas for the early buffet crowd, Akiva Goldsman's unsurprisingly dreadful Winter's Tale hits every single number in the legendary shipwreck lotto, vacillating wildly between unwatchable dreck and oddly-compelling unwatchable dreck. That it's badly-written is no shocker, given that it's Goldsman; the treat this time is that the awful script is matched by a horrific first-time director (Goldsman, too) whose dream it was to adapt an essentially unadaptable magic-realist novel by Mark Helprin that offers the again not-shocking glad-handing Carlos Castenada philosophy of healing light and Manifest Destiny. Just like Cloud Atlas, it's killed most any desire I may have held to read the source material (which I'm sure is a pity), but unlike Cloud Atlas it resists employing yellowface to make its point. That's an improvement. Not an improvement is casting Will Smith as a monologue-delivering Lucifer--yes, that Lucifer; Eva Marie Saint as a 110-year-old woman; and young Jessica Brown Findlay, a casualty of "Downton Abbey", who boasts the sucking void of the vacuous and the genuinely uncharismatic. To be fair, she doesn't get a lot to work with.