THE FALL — ** — Cantinca Untaru, Lee Pace; rated R (violence, gore, drugs, torture, profanity, nude art, vulgarity, slurs)

On the plus side, "The Fall" features some of the craziest, most trippy-looking visuals seen outside a Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton movie.

In fact, while this particular film fantasy purports to be a remake of a little-seen, 1981 feature from Bulgaria, it's clear that filmmaker Tarsem Singh has also seen Gilliam's 1988 movie "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" multiple times.

Like that earlier Gilliam film, this one is a rather messy mix of fantasy, goofy humor and visually arresting, sometimes distracting costume and set designs.

However, it's considerably less interesting and isn't nearly as compelling. The film is pretty but vacant.

The "real-world" elements of the story are set in a Southern California hospital, where a young girl named Alexandria, played by newcomer Cantinca Untaru, is recovering from a broken arm suffered in a fall.

It's also where silent-movie stunt man Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is convalescing. A recent stunt went horribly awry, leaving Roy bed-ridden and possibly paralyzed. And even after having several painful surgeries, he's not sure he'll ever recover.

Alexandria begins visiting and eventually befriends the embittered movie cowboy. So, he begins telling her an epic tale of adventure and romance (sequences that also feature Pace, this time as a masked hero).

Secretly, Roy hopes she'll help him steal some painkillers that he can use to commit suicide.

There are some poor-taste story elements, not the least of which is this somewhat exploitative "friendship" between the two main characters.

Co-screenwriter/director Singh is an award-winning music video director (R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion"), which explains why this looks so much like a music video.

As for Romanian-born actress Untaru, she is cute but is also awkward. And Pace, who is such a low-key delight on TV's "Pushing Daisies," sounds like he's been overmedicated.

"The Fall" is rated R for strong scenes of action violence (stabbings, arrow fire, sword fighting, and both animal cruelty and child-in-peril elements), blood and gore, drug content (prescription painkiller abuse), a brief scene of torture, scattered profanity, glimpses of nude statues, some suggestive language, and a few derogatory and racial slurs. Running time: 116 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com