Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Chalk up yet another mediocre movie for Spanish sensation Penelope Cruz. It just seems that no matter what English language movie she makes (All The Pretty Horses, Woman on Top being two recent examples), she just cannot rise up to the same standards of her Spanish ones. Captain Corelli's Mandolin could be worse, but it isn't. Based on the best-selling novel Corelli's Mandolin (who knows why anyone felt the "Captain" was necessary) by Louis de Bernieres which was beloved in Europe but virtually ignored in America, the movie falters with an epic length surrounding a less than epic story. A mish-mash of bad accents, including a truly horrific Nicholas Cage channeling Super Mario ("Hey Luigi, letsa save the Princess!") creates a scattered, distracting atmosphere.

Cage (The Family Man, Gone in 60 Seconds) is Captain Antonio Corelli, the leader of a regiment of opera singers from Italy. Uh, okay. They have no real desire to fight; they just want to go home and sing. Corelli and crew are stationed on the idyllic Greek island of Cephallonia, previously untouched by the war ravaging Europe. Pelagia (Cruz) lives with her father Dr. Iannus (John Hurt, Lost Souls, Crime and Punishment). Both are independent, forward thinkers. Pelagia is to marry Mandras (Christian Bale, Shaft, American Psycho), an idea she relishes with increasing discomfort once she realizes how ignorant he truly is. Mandras decides to go to fight, leaving Pelagia behind. In comes Corelli, who is to live with Dr. Iannus in exchange for medical supplies. Iannus tries to make the most of the situation, but Pelagia takes an instant disliking to Corelli.

Which of course means that the two will fall in love. How this happens in Shawn Slovo's (A World Apart) screenplay is never really apparent or believable. He and director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, Mrs. Brown) want the audience to believe that because Corelli is at heart an artist and not a soldier, and that he exudes the intelligence and charm that someone like Pelagia will find attractive, the two will fall in love. All this despite the difference in sides. Later, Mandras returns a changed man, which complicates matters. At some point in the middle, the war arrives onto Cephallonia and the tone of the movie immediately shifts, turning surprisingly violent.

This is Madden's first film since the charming Shakespeare in Love. He did a great job with the look of Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Cephallonia looks appropriately rustic, as if it did exist in another time. However, the underlying emotion of the love story is missing. Cruz and Cage do not have great chemistry together, and both are not acting at their peak abilities. The fact that the Corelli character is smug and annoying does not help either. And since the movie is so long, there is only more time for Cage to be on screen. The length gives Madden time to develop characters, yet they still feel hollow. It also stretches out events longer than they need to be. Chop off maybe forty-five minutes and trim some of the extraneous subplots and Captain Corelli's Mandolin would be better.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
2 hours, 25 minutes, Rated R for some violence, sexuality, and language.

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