Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Steven Spielberg has done it again--made a mess of a fine Hollywood tradition, that is. His urgent but ultimately shallow 1998 epic Saving Private Ryan was the instigator of the current spate of deadly earnest and determinedly lifeless World War II films (Enemy at the Gates, Pearl Harbor). The latest in this disappointing wave is the unfortunately titled Captain Corelli's Mandolin, based on the thoughtful 1994 novel by Louis de Berniéres, set on a gorgeous Greek island filled with dancing (that often looks suspiciously Spanish), opera, romantic strife, mandolins, and, the occupying Italian forces. Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) with an eye toward the lush, sun-drenched setting, and working from a wordy adaptation by Shawn Slovo, the tale presents the lovely Pelagia (Pénelope Cruz), whose fiancé, simple fisherman Mandras (Christian Bale), goes off to fight in the war. His absence leaves Pelagia time to fall in love with Antonio Corelli (Nicolas Cage, overdoing it), an Italian officer and mandolin player. After Mandras returns, Pelagia leaves the men to fight it out--with laughable accents--and remains oddly detached from the commotion both inside and outside her home. Only the regal, still-stunning Irene Papas (from the rollicking actioner The Guns of Navarone), as Mandras' mother, rises above this pretty bore.