Cassandra's Dream struggles to find the right tone

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      Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, and Tom Wilkinson. Rated PG.

      Cassandra's Dream, Woody Allen's third consecutive feature to be shot in England, was actually made before Vicky Cristina Barcelona and was only fitfully released. It does have an impressive Brit cast, though (with no Woodys in sight).

      Watch the trailer for Cassandra's Dream.

      A significantly toned-down Colin Farrell plays Terry, a grease monkey with a gambling problem, a glimmer of conscience, and a goodhearted girlfriend (Sally Hawkins). And Ewan McGregor is his nominally brainy brother, Ian, who dreams of leaving their father's struggling restaurant for a life of travel and high finance. Ian's delusions burst into full flower when he meets Angela, an ambitious—if notably wooden—actress played by Hayley Atwell, recently seen in the disastrous Brideshead Revisited.

      The lads' luck changes when Terry's racetrack habits enable them to buy a used boat, named, as is this film, after the winning dog. Unfortunately, this steers them into increasingly dangerous waters as they struggle to maintain appearances and pay off debts, leading to a fateful encounter with their wealthy uncle (a perfectly remorseless Tom Wilkinson), who begs them to “take care” of someone bothering him.

      No Crimes and Misdemeanors this (or even a Before the Devil Knows You're Dead), the film is both overwritten and woefully vague. Minor characters make passing references to Greek mythology, although no one comes right out and relates the title to unheeded warnings (or unknowable futures) implied. Allen struggles to find the right tone, while scads of similar efforts on British TV are both funnier and more disturbing than this attempt at Guinness-hued moral comedy.

      Although the monotonous Philip Glass score doesn't do it any favours, this Dream is attractively packaged and is certainly worth seeing for the lead performances, which—much like their fast-sinking characters—are not at all bad if you see things from their point of view.