Having taken Shakespeare at his word on Hamlet
(i.e., not cutting a single syllable out of a very long play), Kenneth Branagh selects a more radical approach with Love's Labour's Lost
. Here the prolific director-star weeds out much of the play's dialogue and adds songs and dances of a decidedly modern bent. The King of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola, Nicolas Cage's wacko brother in Face/Off
) and his three comrades (Branagh, Matthew Lillard, Adrian Lester) take a vow: no womanly distractions while they pursue their studies. Ah, but at that very moment, floating down a magical studio-built river, is the queen of France (Alicia Silverstone), accompanied by three ladies-in-waiting. You do the math. Branagh has set the tale on the eve of the Second World War, which allows for the inclusion of vintage pop songs, including "Cheek to Cheek," "The Way You Look Tonight," and a rousing chorus of "There's No Business Like Show Business," led by--who else?--Nathan Lane. The fact that most of the cast members are not accomplished song-and-dance folk is clearly meant to charm, but the results are spotty at best. Perhaps the most dynamic performer is Natascha McElhone (memorable from Ronin
), whose aristocratic bearing and bottomless eyes lend a gravity to the material that is otherwise absent from Branagh's twinkly staging. The play contains some of Shakespeare's loveliest paeans to the language of love, yet Branagh seems to be in a hurry to juice everything up lest the audience lose interest. The labor shows. --Robert Horton
With Kenneth Branagh (WILD WILD WEST, CELEBRITY), Alicia Silverstone (BLAST FROM THE PAST), and Nathan Lane (AT FIRST SIGHT, MOUSE HUNT) leading a stellar ensemble cast, Stanley Donen and Martin Scorsese present a sexy, glamorous, and fun 1930's-style musical that's earned terrific critical acclaim! The King of Navare (Alessandro Nivola -- MANSFIELD PARK, FACE/OFF) and his three best friends think that they've sworn off love in the pursuit of intellectual enlightenment. But when the Princess of France (Silverstone) and her beautiful attendants arrive for a diplomatic visit, their high-minded plans are turned completely upside down! Then, as war rages and secret passions burn, loyalty and devotion are tested like never before! Also featuring hilarious Matthew Lillard (SHE'S ALL THAT, SCREAM) and the classic songs of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and more -- go back in time and allow yourself to be swept away by this wonderfully entertaining motion picture treat!