Picks and Pans Review: A Walk in the Clouds

updated 08/14/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/14/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Keanu Reeves, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Anthony Quinn, Giancarlo Giannini

Reeves wanders through much of this swooningly romantic story lugging a salesman's case filled with candy. His character, a G.I. just back from World War II, is such a decent, simple-hearted soul—"I want a wife, a family and a dog," he says—that you keep expecting him to wave his sample case and announce that life is like a box of chocolates. He doesn't, but this omission alone can't save the movie. The first Hollywood film by Mexican director Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate), Clouds never achieves the kind of lightfootedness its title promises and its far-fetched story needs.

The movie begins with Reeves's returning to discover that he has nothing in common with his wife (Debra Messing), a Kewpie doll he wed four years earlier after a hasty courtship. On a train, he meets a Mexican-American woman (Sanchez-Gijon, a Spanish actress with dreamy eyes) who, pregnant and unwed, is headed home from college to her affluent parents and the family vineyard in California's lush Napa Valley. Reeves volunteers to pose temporarily as her husband so that she can save face with her family. Will these two fall in love for real? Is wine made from grapes?

Walk's biggest problem is its leading man. Although Reeves is certainly handsome and hunky enough to play the romantic hero, his dogged earnestness and flat-as-a-spatula voice just don't cut it. Combined, these two traits make such already moldy lines as "I know she is good and strong and deserves all the love this world has to give" sound especially faux-Hemingway and dopey. Of the others in the cast, Giannini sulks about like a basset hound as the heroine's disapproving father, and Quinn merrily embraces old-cootdom as the family patriarch, wearing a grungy bathrobe and drunkenly singing Spanish love songs.

One can say this for Walk: With its many juicy close-ups of succulent fruit hanging heavy on the vine and being stomped sensuously by nubile vineyard workers, it will do wonders for grape sales. I succumbed, buying a pound of seedless beauties on my way home.

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