Penelope Ann Miller
stars as Margaret Harwood, the half-American 28-year-old daughter of an upper-class London wine merchant (Ian Richardson). While examining an estate cellar in Scotland, she comes across a bottle from 1811 (the title year), and her father promptly sells it to an American millionaire (Shane Rimmer
) who sends his good-looking, beer-loving troubleshooter, Oliver Plexico (Tim Daly).
Unluckily for Oliver and Margaret, the Scottish castle is also home to a threesome of evil scientists headed by the charmingly villainous Philippe Louis
Jourdan), and when Oliver and Margaret stumble across a corpse in the wine cellar, they soon have the scientists after them.
This kind of farcical thriller needs more bad guys, of course, and gets them in the shape of a local thug and his dear old mom (Julia McCarthy) and another band of henchman headed by a smooth talker (Art Malik
) working for another oenophile tycoon. However, the three different mobs, rather than meshing into a comic mess, ply their evil plans in polite, but not very funny order.
There's no sense of escalating chaos, although the film clearly counts on evoking that kind of hysteria.
The romantic relationship between Margaret and Oliver doesn't fare much better, going from bickering rivalry to cooing affection as if on autopilot.
Their early exchanges are not quite funny enough, the later ones not quite passionate enough.
The backgrounds, which include climactic chases on the Riviera, are fitfully integrated into the action. The aforementioned lake, the Castle Green
's valley home and the French cliffsides play nice roles whenever they are allowed to, but too much of the action unfolds in anonymous suites and rooms.
YEAR OF THE COMET
A Columbia Pictures Release
Castle Rock Entertainment
in association with New Line Cinema
Producer Nigel Wooll
Director Peter Yates
Writer William Goldman
Director of photography Roger Pratt
Editor Ray Lovejoy
Production designer Anthony Pratt
Casting Noel Davis, Jeremy Zimmerman
, Pam Dixon
Music Hummie Mann
Margaret Harwood Penelope Ann Miller
Oliver Plexico Tim Daly
Philippe Louis Jourdan
Running time -- 90 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
(c) The Hollywood Reporter