A mediocre vintage: crowe coasts in obvious romantic farce

BY CHRISTINA CHOI

Published November 15, 2006

Based on the lukewarm novel by Peter Mayle, its no surprise that "A Good Year" falls short of becoming a heartfelt romance. The parts are all there: the glorious French countryside, a romantic vineyard, plenty of warm sunlight and a lost man (Russell Crowe, "Cinderella Man") struggling to reconcile his love for his late uncle. Yet what the film lacks is exactly what Max Skinner lacks - a sense of stability and purpose.

Crowe plays a ruthless English investor whose manipulation of the stock market has earned him equal amounts of money and infamy. Like the archetypal Scrooge, he has no regard for anyone but himself - and the occasional well-endowed woman. After one of his latest borderline-illegal swindles, Max is annoyed to find that his estranged Uncle Henry (Albert Finney, "Big Fish") has passed away and left him a run-down ch