Despite an impressive cast, the film version of Stephen Sondheim's enchanting stage musical, A Little Night Music rates as a disappointment. Director Harold Prince must take the lion's share of the blame for the film's failures. His work is dull, uninspired, and he seems uncomfortable behind the camera, resulting in a static feel to the work. While there are the occasional moments that show promise (such as much of the "A Weekend in the Country" sequence), too often Prince settles for unimaginative close-ups when something more interesting is called for. This is especially surprising given that large portions of the stage musical were written as if for a film script, with Prince at that time creating the theatrical equivalent of dissolves and jump cuts. Most of the cast suffers from the weak direction, including star Elizabeth Taylor, who is never quite convincing and who lacks sufficient rapport with Len Cariou. Taylor's performance of "Send in the Clowns," in particular, is a disappointment. However, Hermione Gingold is amusing and Diana Rigg quite good, the latter supplying a number of delicious moments. Sondheim's beguiling score survives mostly intact, and it is here that the strength of the movie lies. It's a pity that such fine songs were not given a more appropriate showcase.
by Craig Butler review