Keanu Reeves plays a travelling chocolate salesman, whose broken heart is mended by the pregnant young woman he helps return to her family.
Seldom has a film so exactly fit its star's image - in this case Pretty But Dumb. Alfonso Arau's Hollywood debut offers lovely visuals that recall the "magical realism" of his previous Like Water For Chocolate, wedded to the dippiest of screenplays.
Although it was scripted by Americans (and produced by the Zucker brothers, who are very talented but not known for their sense of taste) the dialogue has the ring of something foreign in origin that has been translated hilariously literally - the curse of The House Of The Spirits looms tall. Reeves looks very cute indeed as a G.I. who gets back from World War II to discover his war bride hasn't been keeping the home fires burning for him. He takes to the road as a chocolates salesman and meets a beauty (Sanchez-Gijon) in distress because her Spanish papa, a proud vineyard owner (Giancarlo Giannini), is going to kill her when he learns she has a bun in the oven.
Being a kindly sort of romantic dreamer, Reeves agrees to put in an appearance at the family's magnificent Californian hacienda posing as her husband long enough for papa to hate him, when he'll "abandon" his "wife" and unborn baby to the relief of her relations. Only he falls in love with the girl, the place and the family, particularly its savvy sweetheart of a patriarch played by Anthony Quinn.
As romantic deceptions go this is a mind-blowingly old-fashioned doozy far more likely to provoke an audience into fits of giggling than sighs. But it looks like a fairy tale should, particularly a mysterious night scene when the cast don gauzy wings and waft the heat from flame pots along frost-threatened rows of grapes like bravely deranged butterflies. Post-Speed, Reeves' pulling power is sufficient to have turned this mildly charming hokum into a respectable performer at the US box-office. That, however, can only count as much ado about nothing much at all.
Pretty as a picture, but emptyheaded as hell.