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The King of Navarre and his three companions swear a very public oath to study together and to renounce women for three years. Their honour is immediately put to the test by the arrival of the Princess of France and her three lovely companions. It's love at first sight for all concerned followed by the men's highly entertaining but hopeless efforts to disguise their feelings. Written by
Something about Love's Labour's Lost is causing critics to sniff and huff and puff like never before. The dance numbers aren't perfectly in sync and the music isn't perfectly performed, they sneer. Shakespeare and Gershwin don't mix. It's sheer fluff. It's bizarre.
Thus saith the critics. The forest that they're missing with their shrubs of discontentment is the overwhelming charm and infectuous fun of this silly little film. Yes, when Branagh and his cronies do a dance number it isn't lock-step choreography (one arm a little high, perhaps, one foot off the beat a bit). When Alicia Silverstone and her ladies-in-waiting cavort and giggle in a pool, they're not quite Esther Williams and company. Instead of picture-perfect Fred & Ginger, they look like real people dancing and singing because dancing and singing are fun. And unless you're Ebenezer Scrooge, The Grinch, or a movie critic, you'll have fun, too.
That's not to say the movie is just sloppy silliness. Branagh stages some gorgeous set pieces, including gondolas lit by Japanese lanterns, a prop-plane goodbye straight out of Casablanca, and a production number in which the film's silliest character kicks the moon like a big silver soccer ball. It's about a third Shakespeare, a third 30's musical, and a third Looney Tunes. What's odd is that the styles mix so well under Branagh's direction.
If you want a picture-perfect musical, rent "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" or some other dull thing. If you want perfect Shakespeare, rent Branagh's "Hamlet." If, however, you want a movie to make you believe in movies again -- if you want to kick up your heels, laugh out loud, and float out of a movie theater humming Cole Porter -- see this movie.
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