The Cider House Rules is a lousy book, but it’s probably a worse movie. And that’s before you are even asked to believe that Tobey Maguire could ever get within five feet of Charlize Theron.

Homer Wells (Maguire) is an orphan, brought up in Dr. Larch’s (Michael Caine) orphanage-cum-free-abortion-clinic in the most depressing town in Maine. Homer learns much surgery, including obstetrical procedures, but does not want to perform abortions. And, in case you don’t understand about Chekhov’s gun, yeah, that’ll come up later. At some point, Candy Kendall (Theron) and Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd) show up, needing Dr. Larch’s services, and they take Homer back to the coast with them. He starts working on Wally’s family’s orchard, and stays there as Wally goes off to fly in WWII, because he is believed to have a dicky heart. Because Dr. Larch has told him so. Which is a lie. Dr. Larch also forges a medical education for Homer. Which is apparently fine? Because one Maine doctor with an iron sense of his own morality and a lightbox is like actual qualifications.

While at the orchard, we embark on a Wally-Candy-Homer love triangle. It is ludicrous. I can’t decide whether it’s more or less ludicrous than the 600 pages of angsty nonsense in the book. Maybe it’s just more compact. Perhaps more interestingly, but also seeming rather like events that happen in a parallel universe, there are racially charged and otherwise unpleasant interactions with the orchard staff, particularly Mr. Rose (Delroy Lindo) and his daughter (Erykah Badu).

Mercifully, the film only takes one generation for matters to play out instead of the book’s two, so…it’s shorter than it could be. It also doesn’t perpetuate the apparently common belief of male novelists that all women are probably lesbians except when there’s a certain man around, so…there’s that.

It does, however, have Michael Caine doing a deeply dodgy American accent. And Tobey Maguire’s face. So it could be a lot better, is what I’m saying.

But Maine is lovely.

Director: Lasse Hallström
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes
Score: 2/5

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