At one point in its production, the latest adaptation of author Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" was going to star Jude Law, Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, all fine actors.
There's no telling whether their presence would have improved the movie. But it certainly couldn't have hurt.
As it is, "Becoming Jane" filmmaker Julian Jarrold's version is low-wattage and low-energy, and has few recognizable faces in its acting ensemble, except in the supporting cast. (British veterans Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon show up as squabbling exes and are the only real things of interest here, aside from the beautiful scenery.)
This slowly paced, uninvolving "revisitation" of Waugh's novel stars Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder, an artistically talented and ambitious, middle-class Brit who finds himself at the prestigious Oxford University prior to the start of World War II.
While there, he befriends the wealthy Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw), who would rather quaff wine and tour the countryside than attend his scheduled classes. But he takes Charles to Brideshead Manor, his family's palatial estate.
For Charles, Brideshead is a dream world. He falls in love with its history and its architecture.
Sebastian, though, is clearly infatuated with Charles who, in turn, is smitten with Sebastian's alluring sister (Hayley Atwell). But the Flytes' strictly religious mother, Lady Marchmain (Thompson), tries to put a stop to at least one of those relationships.
Director Jarrold and screenwriters Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies make some strange storytelling choices the religious discussion elements come across as Catholic bashing.
And the leads are so aloof that they come off as arrogant and unlikable. Again, it's lucky that wily old pros Thompson and Gambon show up, or the film would be nearly unwatchable."Brideshead Revisited" is rated PG-13 for simulated sex, brief male nudity and nude art, scattered profanity (mostly religiously based), some sexually suggestive language, derogatory slurs based on sexual preference, and some brief violence (war imagery). Running time: 135 minutes.