February 14, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: Romantic 'Winter's Tale' turns bizarre with time-traveling tragedies

Jessica Brown Findlay as Beverly Penn and Colin Farrell as Peter Lake star in the romantic fantasy adventure 'Winter's Tale.' (David C. Lee)

“Winter’s Tale” starts out in a romantic enough way.

A dashing but desperate burglar named Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is in the process of robbing an early 20th century New York household when he unexpectedly runs into a beautiful young woman named Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay from “Downton Abbey”) there.

Of course, they sit down to have some tea. Of course, he falls in love with her. Of course, she’s dying.

And of course when she is later being threatened by Peter’s arch-enemy, Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), Peter swoops in atop a giant white horse and rescues her.

And of course the horse has wings and can fly.

Wait, what?

Well, that’s the thing with “Winter’s Tale.” You have to stretch your imagination just a teensy bit — OK, a whale of a lot — to buy into it. Pearly Soames, it turns out, is some sort of demon who runs a criminal enterprise in New York City for Lucifer himself (Will Smith!).

There’s also something going on with miracles turning into stars — Pearly is apparently out to stop this sort of thing — and crooked angels here on Earth, and either reincarnation or eternal life, it’s hard to tell which.

All of which might be fine if the film didn’t deal in so many “of course” moments. Written and directed by Akiva Goldsman (he wrote “A Beautiful Mind” and many other top scripts), and based on a novel by Mark Helprin, the film revolves around a standard tragedy in one time period and then moves on to a different standard tragedy in another time period, dressing things up with magic and flying horses.

For the starry-eyed, that may be enough. For the rest, it won’t.

'Winter's Tale'

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13 for violence and some sensuality

Running time: 118 minutes

tlong@detroitnews.com
twitter.com/toomuchTomLong