The overwhelming critical opinion of this film was that it is a total bomb, but I am completely at odds with this critical consensus. Does it have some miscasting and bad accents? Yes. But Zaillian's script and direction are crisp, the photograph is outstanding, and there are some high points in the direction and Penn's lead performance that are outstanding. Not nearly as bad as you've heard, and in fact quite good.
I agree with Mike. I saw this film before the original version, and I thought that it was amazing. I read the book after watching the movie and was extremely surprised to see negative reviews of this film. What shocked me even more was the film earning the title of "worst film of the year" by many critics.