Contrary to rumour, size does matter. Especially in Hollywood. Rule of thumb: the longer your movie, the more important it is perceived to be. Go over two hours and it creates a mood: see, we have something weighty to impart - we need time for texture as well as action, we need time to take you all the places you need to go, we need time to break Barriers. Or maybe we just need the time to tell this particular story properly.

Now, sometimes - sometimes - this is true. Think of The Godfather, one of the few movies in Hollywood history where the producer, Robert Evans, insisted on adding instead of cutting, much to the horror of director Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount's marketing department, who wanted a picture they could sell tickets on four times a day. But The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate aren't actually important, they're self-important - the epic as exercise in ego. In this case, director Michael Cimino's. . .

Which brings us to Kevin Costner's three hour-plus Wyatt Earp (above). I say Kevin's Wyatt Earp rather than director Lawrence Kasdan's Wyatt Earp because after the equally long (winded) Dances with Wolves, Kevin Costner is all too obviously supplying the ego. And as Wolves was a multi-Oscar-winning hit, no one is going to say 'no' to his hogging the camera or his insistence on giving you every second of the western sheriff's life from early teens to retirement or point out that Tombstone told the same tale, was snappy with it, and much the better movie.

Which is depressing, but not half as depressing as critics taking the film as its own value. Another rule of thumb: always mind the quality, never mind the width.