Never has the journey from Ireland to Oklahoma seemed so long as it does in this poor-plucky-boy-meets-rich-spitfire-girl adventure saga. Cruise, Gaelic accent more or less securely in place, is an Irish tenant farmer bent on owning his own land and exacting revenge from the absentee landlord responsible for destroying his home and, indirectly, killing his father. As it turns out, the bibulous landlord (played to the hilarious hilt by Robert Prosky) is, after a fashion, as oppressed as any of his tenants. So is the landlord’s beautiful daughter (Kidman), who saves Cruise from death in a duel and persuades him to run off with her to America, where land out West is free for the taking. Docking in Boston, the pair learn there are pitfalls in the promised land. When Kidman’s silver spoons are stolen, she and Cruise are forced to board in a Bean-town brothel. She finds work plucking chickens while Cruise finds some fame as a bare-knuckle boxer, all the while dreaming of the day he can lay claim to his own acreage.
Far and Away is full of unintentionally humorous moments—including sudden snowstorms, grandiose speeches and preternaturally coincidental meetings. Director Ron (Back-draft) Howard has concocted a tale without edge or irony, one that is further burdened by poor pacing and an exasperating ending. Howard has better luck with the glorious west-of-Ireland scenery and with his leading performers, who give far better than they get. Cruise and Kidman (his real-life wife) are a terrifically winsome pair, and the chemistry between them is palpable. But even their durable charms can’t keep Far and Away from being a disappointment of epic proportions. (PG-13)