The Cider House Rules
Based on the novel by John Irving (with a screenplay co-written by the author), The Cider House Rules is a pleasant, good-looking coming-of-age saga that follows orphan Homer Wells (a stellar Tobey Maguire) from the Maine orphanage he has always called home to an apple orchard and the life of the picking crew. He leaves behind his surrogate dad, Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine, in a strong performance, doing a marvelous American accent). Yet for all its pleasantry (and its bold, straight take on abortion) and Irving's obvious comfort in writing for the screen, director Lasse Hallström's adaptation loses much of the book's richness as its plot developments become a tad too melodramatic and tidy. And Charlize Theron, playing Homer's love interest, feels too contemporary to pass believably as an apple-picking bumpkin in the 1940s. Cider House is pretty and shiny, but ultimately it's an empty Christmas package.