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Helena Bonham Carter,
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
Boy, Kenneth Branagh will try anything, won't he? Even infusing Shakespeare's comedy with a string of Gershwin-era songs and dances. But while his Much Ado About Nothing was a frothy, wonderful gem, Love's Labour's Lost . . . just didn't quite work. It's a noble try, though.
Whether the concept itself is flawed is up for debate. (Surely some Shakespeare purists were up in arms when this came out!) What cannot be argued, however, is that Branagh's cast is unable to pull this off. They simply are trying to hard at what should come naturally, and the audience can't help but notice. His direction also sinks the film at various points, and as a result, the film jerks from scene to scene, from song to song, ultimately culminating in a collection of bits that never gel into a unified whole.
That's not to say that the movie doesn't have its strengths. There is a sense of fun that pervades the film which is quite pleasant. The costumes and art direction are appropriately light and beautiful, and some of the comedy moments are quite fun. Each actor also has his or her strength. Alessandro Nivola (Laurel Canyon, Mansfield Park) is the best singer, Adrian Lester (Primary Colors) the best dancer, Branagh the best actor, and Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo) . . . sure is tall. The supporting cast (Nathan Lane, Alicia Silverstone, Emily Mortimer, et. al.) each do their best to rise above the film's shortcomings, as well.
Ultimately, the audience ends up really trying to like this movie, but the flaws are too great to dismiss. 6/10 stars.
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