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Film review: 'Winter Passing' fails to get going

Published: Friday, March 31 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

WINTER PASSING — ** — Zooey Deschanel, Ed Harris, Will Ferrell; R (profanity, drugs, sex, violence, brief partial nudity).

The first time Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell teamed up was "Elf," the delightful 2003 Christmas comedy that helped turn Ferrell into a full-fledged movie star.

"Winter Passing" reunites the two and tries to do the same thing for Deschanel, who's been memorably tart in several supporting roles (especially in "Failure to Launch" and "Almost Famous").

Unfortunately, this too-dour film can't decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama. As a result, it doesn't really work as either, and it's unlikely that very many moviegoers will see the film, or Deschanel's performance.

She stars as Reese Holdin, a self-destructive, self-loathing actress with similar feelings for her father, Don (Ed Harris), a once-famous novelist. However, that doesn't stop Reese from returning home to Michigan.

She's supposed to go there to find hundreds of love letters written by her late mother (a greedy agent wants to publish them). Instead, she finds strangers living in her childhood home, including Don's bodyguard/handyman Corbit (Ferrell) and Shelley (Amelia Warner), one of her father's former students.

First-time filmmaker Adam Rapp really drags out the inevitable daughter-father reunion, and the film's happy ending feels long and false, that is unrealistic and unearned.

And as written by Rapp, Reese is so rude she's unappealing, and even the actress' best efforts fail to warm up her chilly character up fail.

In support, Ferrell tones down his usual goofiness, though he's still too goofy for this type of material. And Harris is given little to do as a one-note booze-soaked literary genius.

"Winter Passing" is rated R for frequent use of strong sexual profanity, some drug content (including cocaine use and references), simulated sex and other sexual contact, some brief violence (a scuffle), and some brief partial female nudity. Running time: 98 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com