In Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, bug-eyed Captain Corelli (Nicolas Cage, channeling Face/Off’s Castor Troy rather than his inner Coppola) hopes to occupy Cephallonian babe Pelagia (Penélope Cruz) during Italy’s own 1940 occupation of Greece. The ghoulish Corelli is a wise-cracking, opera-loving, stereotypically-romantic Italian though he’s initially off-putting to a Greek community with Nazi-infiltration on the brain. Pelagia is all peaches and cream, a lovelorn country princess with an oaf for a boyfriend (a miscast Christian Bale) and a sensible-minded doctor for a father (John Hurt). John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) evokes Mediterranean life with a tourist’s idea of accuracy (see the sheeps and goats and Cruz’s softly lit armpit hair). While Corelli’s musical tool doesn’t exactly get stroked as much as one might expect, the mandolin does create a stir in the Cephallonian pot. David Morrissey’s evil German struggles with his international need for a buddy—his shame in being a Nazi is seemingly invoked by Corelli’s love-struck music. An Italian soldier ludicrously prognosticates his role as sacrificial lamb but, most dangerous, is the notion that smiling at a German is enough to convince two patriotic Greek boys to go lynching their women. A Turkish bomb makes a surreal appearance here as World War I artifact when swept onto the island’s shore. This scene is ripe with unfulfilled potential—not only does Madden fail to barbecue the little girl who discovers the remnant but the bomb serves to emphasize Madden’s one-dimensional concern for the colonialism plaguing his soap opera characters. Bale’s illiterate Mandras is thrown aside by Pelagia in favor of Cage’s creepy crawler. Cruz and Cage’s chemistry is completely non-existent and save for the opening and closing Greek festivities, the film lacks both flavor and sweep. Madden’s film amounts to dullard’s comatose trip to an isle ready for political upheaval with a little help from a mandolin-playing Benigni drone.
- John Madden
- Shawn Slovo
- Nicolas Cage, Penélope Cruz, Christian Bale, John Hurt, David Morrissey, Irene Papas, Patrick Malahide, Aspasia Kralli
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