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‘A Walk in the Clouds’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 11, 1995

 


Director:
Alfonso Arau
Cast:
Keanu Reeves;
Debra Messing;
Anthony Quinn;
Aitana Sanchez-Gijon;
Giancarlo Giannini
PG-13
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent


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"A Walk in the Clouds," the new picture from "Like Water for Chocolate" director Alfonso Arau, is a phenomenally atrocious movie—so bad, in fact, that you might actually manage to squeeze a few laughs out of it.

Granted, these few chuckles are of the "Yonder lies the castle of mah fodder" variety, and come completely at the movie's expense. The film has the syrupy, Kodak magic-moment look of a Bo Derek movie, and pretty much the same level of substance.

In this case, though, Keanu Reeves is the sex object, an earnest, clean-cut GI just returned home from WWII. Every day on the front line, Paul had poured his soul into the letters he sent to his wife back home—letters that told of his hopes and dreams. Once he returns, though, Paul finds that his wife (Debra Messing) has stored his correspondence in a trunk, unopened.

Disappointed and confused, Paul heads out west to make his fortune selling chocolates. Along the way, though, he meets an exquisite creature with a problem. Her name is Victoria (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), and her father (Giancarlo Giannini) owns the vineyard that has supported the tightly knit clan for generations. The problem, you see, is that she's pregnant, and in all likelihood her father will kill her for dishonoring the family. Being on a somewhat loose schedule, Paul suggests that he pose as Victoria's husband. Just for a few days, he says, then he'll slip away and be about his business, and no one will be the wiser.

From the start, it's clear that all this nonsense is merely a setup for Paul and Victoria to fall in love. But the affair between them is tepid and squeaky-clean; when he's with her, the look on Reeves's face says, "And you are . . . ?"

The movie isn't so much a walk in the clouds as it is a stroll into the past. In both its attitudes and style, the film seems stuck somewhere in the '40s—that is, until Reeves opens his mouth and, suddenly, it's Ted, dude, circa 1995. In a climactic showdown with Victoria's father, he exclaims: "Don't you know how special she is?"

Actually, the most fun to be had with the film is in watching Reeves struggle through his dialogue—that and attempting to figure out what in heaven's name Anthony Quinn, who plays Victoria's sagacious grandfather, is trying to do. With his hands fluttering wildly around his face like a belly dancer's, Quinn looks at times as if he were actually trying to achieve liftoff.

It's fair to say, however, that Quinn gets farther off the ground than the movie. After the unexpected (and somewhat inexplicable) success of "Like Water for Chocolate," Arau supposedly had his pick of projects. Why he would choose this groaningly old-fashioned love story—which despite the presence of Reeves and two well-known Italian actors is meant to be a tribute to Latino life—is baffling. The clouds, it seems, have seeped into his brain.

A Walk in the Clouds is rated PG-13.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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