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Movie review: 'The Lightkeepers'

You can't hate this tale, set on Cape Cod in 1912. But Richard Dreyfuss overacts, the plot is predictable, and it all plays like an adaptation of a dog-eared romance novel.

May 07, 2010|By Glenn Whipp, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Watching Richard Dreyfuss ham it up as a salty old sailor in the lifeless Lifetime-style period drama "The Lightkeepers" makes you wonder how much he was thinking about his old "Jaws" cast mate Robert Shaw while making the movie. If Dreyfuss was going for Captain Quint's whole fingernails-on-a-chalkboard effect, then he has succeeded, though his overacting may make you wish his ornery old-timer had ended up in the belly of a great white shark too.

But you can't really hate "The Lightkeepers." You can only wish that writer-director Daniel Adams had invested the movie with equal measures of originality and quaintness … and maybe told Dreyfuss to tone down the whole sea captain thing.

Dreyfuss plays Seth Atkins, who tends a lighthouse all by his lonesome in Cape Cod in 1912. One day, an English fop (Tom Wisdom) washes ashore. He claims to have fallen overboard from a steamer. He resists telling Atkins anything more, but the old-timer likes him enough to hire him as an assistant, even though the young man can't crack an egg or use a broom.

What Atkins and John Brown (that's what the mystery man calls himself) share is a hatred of the fairer sex. "Consarn all women!" Atkins says. (Yes, he talks like that all through the movie.) "Amen!" echoes Brown, and the scalawags make a pact that there be "no sparkin' on these premises."

No sooner than they spit-shake on it than a buggy arrives at the lighthouse with (shudder) two women. Conveniently, one of them, well-bred artist Ruth (Mamie Gummer, looking very much like her mother, Meryl Streep), is younger, and the other, Ruth's plain-spoken housekeeper Mrs. Bascom ( Blythe Danner), is about Atkins' age.

What will the self-proclaimed "woman-haters" do?

The tag line on the movie's poster — "where romance is almost impossible, love always finds a way" — offers a clue to both the outcome and prevailing tone. But predictability is the least of the movie's problems. Static, poorly staged and buried in thickets of flowery language, "The Lightkeepers" plays like an adaptation of a dog-eared romance novel, the kind of film best left for cable viewing on a rainy, housebound day.

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