"I Dreamed of Africa" will leave you dozing.
It will be a pleasant doze; the movie is picturesque and often lovely. But you'll still be yawning for action.
The film's middling effect is unfortunate, since it contains a heartfelt and moving performance by Kim Basinger. Ms. Basinger has a firm command of her character's emotions, and the passage of time has made her face even more interesting and reflective. She's now an accomplished actress rather than a talented ingenue.
Based on a true story, the film follows bored socialite divorcee Kuki Gallmann (Ms. Basinger) as she seeks to find a more meaningful life in Kenya. She's accompanied by her new husband and her young, loyal son. She finds contentment and purpose, but at a personal price she hadn't expected.
Director Hugh Hudson strives to give an accurate re-creation of Ms. Gallmann's daily life as a Kenya rancher, with its peaceful sameness punctured by unexpected dangers. Yet Mr. Hudson has lost the touch he displayed in both "Chariots of Fire" and "Greystoke," in which he added sparkle to what might have been repetitious stories. In "I Dreamed of Africa," the sense of excitement is too brief and too rare.
What's more, the personal drama between Ms. Basinger's Kuki and new husband Paolo (played by Vincent Perez) carries too many echoes of Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in "Out of Africa." She's an independent spirit who's ready to settle down; he's an independent spirit who doesn't like boundaries. Even considering Mr. Redford's uneven performance in the earlier film, the listless Mr. Perez lacks his resonance.
More successful are Eva Marie Saint, as Kuki's pragmatic mother, and Liam Aiken, as the heroine's son when a small child. His grave demeanor resembles that of Haley Joel Osment. But when the character reaches college-age, he's played by Garrett Strommen in a self-consciously dreamy manner.
Pleasant and pastoral, "I Dreamed of Africa" might be called a good rainy-day movie. Trouble is, these are the hot months.