Picks and Pans Review: 1492
Substituting chaos for excitement, political correctness for insight and plodding for dignity, this tale of Columbus's discovery is so dull that you'll wish Chris had taken his trip to Club Med and saved us all some trouble.
Depardieu, who makes every character he plays seem like a lumpy dimwit, never suggests Columbus's inspired imagination. His accent adds to the confusion too—a Frenchman, playing a man born in Italy and matured in Portugal, is speaking English that's supposed to be Spanish. He pronounces Asia as "Ah-ZEE-uh."
Director Ridley (Thelma & Louise) Scott and writer Roselyne Bosch humanize Columbus, emphasizing his love for his two sons, but they overdo it, at times raising the specter of a sitcom—Discoverer of the New World Knows Best. Depardieu even banters with Weaver, who makes Isabella seem coquettish. "You're the only queen I know," Depardieu tells her. "That's all right," Weaver replies. "I've never met a navigator before."
Assante (Q & A), as adviser to Isabella, is one of a bewildering array of supporting players. Once Columbus has reached the New World and the movie focuses on colonizing activities, confusion really sets in, with Indian and Spaniards of various descriptions milling about and bedeviling Depardieu.
Scott, though he depicts the Europeans brutalizing the indigenous Americans, also presents the Indians as savages who thrive on torture. But it's clear from the way Scott keeps showing them being mistreated in a number of ways that these are sympathetic savages. Scott lends a sense of moment to the actual discovery, yet the rest of the 152-minute film just drones along up to the death of Columbus. (PG-13)