Coming off of "Shakespeare In Love," which in many ways reinvented, spoofed or at least paid winking homage to 400 years of romantic clich├ęs, one might think director John Madden would be able to circumvent the kind of highly telegraphed heartstring-pulling that goes on in "Captain Corelli's Mandolin."

But the opening credits have barely faded before this wartime three-hanky flick plunges in with the Harlequin novel melodrama. Mandras (Christian Bale), a brave, passionate, handsome young Greek island lad promises to marry the village beauty named Pelagia (Penelope Cruz) as he goes off to fight the encroaching armies of Mussolini and Hitler. "I don't know how to tell you what's in here," he cries on one knee, pounding a fist against his breast. "But I think...I know...(choke!)...I love you! (Dramatic pause.) Now I leave for war! Come dance with me!"

If you were able to read the preceding direct quote without gagging, boy, oh boy is this your kind of movie -- a soap opera of epic proportions involving Pelagia haplessly falling for an occupying Italian soldier while her lover is off fighting for her and for her country's freedom.

Continue reading: Captain Corelli's Mandolin Review