Good Year, A

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: -3

Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Abbie Cornish. Written by Marc Klein. Directed by Ridley Scott.

FILM SYNOPSIS: London-based Investment expert Max Skinner (Crowe) visits Province to sell a small vineyard he has inherited from his late uncle. As Max reluctantly settles into what ultimately becomes an intoxicating new chapter in his life, he encounters a beautiful California woman who also lays claim to the property.

PREVIEW REVIEW: For those of you desperate for a romantic comedy during this season of chainsaw horror and Santa vs. Jack Frost flicks, heres one that takes place in Frances beautiful wine country. Theres just one little problem. No actually, there are several problems. Lets start with the first one its star. The night before I saw the 60 Minutes interview with Mr. Crowe or what could best be described as damage control. Russell Crowe is a superb actor and has chosen some great roles (L.A. Confidential, Cinderella Man, Master and Commander, A Beautiful Mind), but his gangster-like bullying off camera has not ingratiated the actor to American audiences. Years ago, Demi Moore attempted to play Hester Prim in The Scarlet Letter. This was the definitive miscasting. In roles before and after, she bombarded viewers with most every inch of her physique and displayed a vocabulary much like that of Howard Stern. People couldnt accept her in a prim and proper role. She has evidenced in her roles and magazine covers that she doesnt do prim and proper. Same goes for the phone-throwing hot-head Russell Crowe. Its difficult to accept him in a light-hearted romantic comedy. Though I admit he has very good timing, theres more to romantic comedy than a quick wit. Hes one of those actors that brings his personal baggage to a role. That works when youre playing a rogue cop or a down on his luck pugilist, but not so much when he tries to play cultured.

Sadly, theres no real arc to his role or a convincing one to the film. Oh, hes a self-centered, money-is-all city boy who learns about love and the pros of living on a Procencial vineyard rather than continue to be a wheeler dealer (especially when you can leave that occupation with a huge bonus from your employer), but I was not convinced that he was now a better person. Just a very lucky one. (He gets a bunch of money, a picturesque estate and the prettiest girl in the South of France.)

The movie starts out slowly, somewhat imitating Under The Tuscan Sun, only without Diane Lanes charming narration. We do get some great shots of the local scenery (both the landscape and Mr. Crowes two female costars are lovely), but Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien, Kingdom of Heaven) seems lost in this less fierce genre.

I will concede, however, that the film begins to gain momentum in the second half as we get to know other characters and finally become absorbed in the story. But this is no thanks to Mr. Crowe, who is badly miscast and seems disconnected with the other players.

Another problem I had is the films lack of moral center. Several main characters toss Jesus name around as if saying darn it. While I wouldnt expect a major studio romantic comedy to pay homage to the Creator as the lead evolves into a decent person, the inclusion of Gods name followed by a curse and His Sons name used as an expletive even after the main character begins to see the light, sends an unsatisfying spiritual message. It also distracts from the mood. Theres a harshness to certain words that simply distract from the world of romantic comedy. Yet, they are all included here.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
20th Century Fox

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: A few crude jokes are made by the lead in the beginning to establish his uncaring character.

Obscene Language: 12 obscenities, mostly the s-word.

Profanity: 2 misuses of Christs name, one profane use of Gods name.

Violence: A couple of slapstick accidents, but nothing too brutal.

Sex: One sexual situation between a couple who both claim they dont want to get involved permanently. Though there arent any graphic sexual situations, there is a great deal of sensuality, including women in skimpy outfits and men ogling them.

Nudity: None, though we see a topless woman from behind as a man rubs her sun burnt back with an ice cube.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: One from the lead.

Drugs: This being wine country, we see a great deal of drinking.

Other: Several comic anti-American remarks and caricatures of dim witted Americans. Of course we can take it, but it is rather ironic derogatory remarks about another country coming from the French. (Just kidding.)

Running Time: 118 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.