A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this cunning adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic play is heavy on battles and violence. Celia and Rosalind run away from home to escape the cruel Duke Ferdinand. Brothers Orlando and Oliver and brothers Senior and Frederick do everything they can to destroy one another -- an extreme take on the sibling rivalry most families experience. Often men are seen kicking, punching, and cutting one another. There is also one scene where Rosalind is discovered naked in a pond by Orlando and some scenes of sexual innuendo that, because they're coded in Shakespearean English, will probably be missed by kids.
What's the story?
Want love and action? Consider AS YOU LIKE IT, the Shakespeare adaptation that has moony love and ninjas to satisfy all viewers. In an English enclave in feudal Japan, the family of Duke Senior (Brian Blessed) finds itself suddenly on the lam in a Japanese forest, fleeing the deadly attack of Senior's brother, Ferdinand (also Brian Blessed) waged to overtake Senior's position. Along the way, however, Rosalind (The Village's Bryce Dallas Howard) meets Orlando (David Oyelowo) and falls instantly in love. Once in the forest, the lovelorn Rosalind comes up with a scheme: masquerade as a man to be close to Orlando, while the whole company of the banished duke waits to return to their home.
Is it any good?
Shakespeare adaptations are never an easy sell for teens, with their foreign-sounding turns of phrase and air of English class, but Kenneth Branagh's version may fare slightly better than others. The cons: At a little more than two hours long and true to Shakespeare's language, it's likely to lose teens' interest before the silly, romantic ending. For them, 10 Things I Hate About You may be a better starting place. The pros: The cast is amazing -- Howard is effervescent and easy to follow. Kevin Kline's morose spiritual seeker may seem an awful lot like a sulky teenager, with lines like, "I can suck melancholy from a song as a weasel sucks eggs."
Branagh's idea to move the play from England to Japan is brilliant and adds a new layer of interest. Plus -- ninjas and sumo wrestlers. What could be better? The antic second half, full of Three's Company-style mistaken identities, quick banter, and a very happy ending will satisfy the romantics in the audience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the extreme results of sibling rivalry displayed here. When siblings talk about wanting to hurt each other or even hating each other, where do you think it will lead? Do you think most people let go of these feelings as adults, or not? How does this adaptation compare to other Shakespeare adaptations?
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