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With: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd, Erykah Badu, Kathy Baker, Jane Alexander, Kieran Culkin, Kate Nelligan, K. Todd Freeman, Heavy D., J.K. Simmons, Erik Per Sullivan, Evan Dexter Parke, John Irving
Written by: John Irving, based on his own novel
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexuality, nudity, substance abuse and some violence
Running Time: 125
Date: 09/07/1999

The Cider House Rules (1999)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Rotten Apples

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?) teams up with writer John Irving forThe Cider House Rules. Irving was reportedly quite upset with lastyear's treatment of his story Simon Birch, so he wrote his ownscreenplay for this new movie. He shouldn't have bothered. The CiderHouse Rules is just as tepid and surface-level as Simon Birchwas.

Oh, you'll hear lots of praise for The Cider House Rules because it has a literary pedigree (after 100 years most critics still believe literature to be innately superior to cinema). But, as far as I'm concerned, it's just another Hollywood book-on-tape with no real artistic value. It's so middle-of-the-road that it doesn't even bother to take a side on the complex abortion issue at its center.

Adopted and returned twice to an orphanage, Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) ends up being trained by its resident doctor (Michael Caine, with an American accent) to deliver babies and perform abortions. Soon, Homer is yearning to see the world. He leaves the orphanage with Paul Rudd and Charlize Theron, a couple who have come for an abortion, and gets a job on an apple ranch while Rudd goes off to war. Homer learns important life lessons from the African-American apple workers (including Delroy Lindo). Before long, Theron and Maguire embark on an illicit affair.

The pacing of The Cider House Rules is deadly and the characters seem like they're sketched out on 3x5 cards, never coming to life. It has plenty of amusing moments that pass the time nicely, but there's really no point to this movie. If you're at all interested in The Cider House Rules, I suggest staying home to read the book.

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