The big merit of The Cardinal is the sheer size and audacity of its conception. . . . There is much to carp at in The Cardinal. The acting is singularly uneven, the plot excessively melodramatic, and many of the arguments nakedly didactic. If I totted up the film, minute by minute, the bad would just about equal the good; and yet, because I value design over detail and form over fact, I tend to praise The Cardinal rather than seek to bury it.