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Parents' Guide to

Love's Labour's Lost

By Ellen MacKay, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

A noble experiment that didn't quite work out.

Movie PG 2002 93 minutes
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Branagh has taken some heat in the past for injudicious casting -- Keanu Reeves in Much Ado About Nothing comes to mind -- but in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST, just about everyone seems miscast. Branagh's rather brilliant directorial vision led him to transform this very verbal, extremely obscure play into a grand musical, full of classics by the likes of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and George and Ira Gershwin. There's just one problem: almost no one in the cast is a trained singer or dancer. So when Branagh and company let loose with their show-tunes, they come off like enthusiastic amateurs, tripping gamely but lamely about the set. There is one exception to this tendency: Broadway veteran Nathan Lane stops the movie in its tracks when he belts out "There's No Business Like Show Business." Although this production number serves little purpose, Lane winningly displays the skills that went unmastered at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Fortunately for Shakespearean novices Lillard and Silverstone, each actor has so few lines that the verse doesn't suffer as much as the songs do. But the radical editing of the play -- to make room for all that flat footwork -- renders the purpose of a number of the characters inexplicable. The pretentious tutor Holofernia (feminized from Shakespeare's Holofernes), is hilariously satirized in the play, but makes no sense whatsoever in this truncated version. All in all, this is a noble experiment that didn't quite work out. Kids would be better served by watching Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet.

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