Theatrical and featherweight, pointless and frustrating, Kenneth Branagh's hybrid adaptation of Love's Labour's Lost proves there's no limit to what film's most dedicated Shakespeare interpreter can get made. How else to explain a 13-million-dollar gamble on two lost genres -- the Shakespearean comedy and the movie musical -- that had little hope of connecting with a 21st century audience? Even "News on the March"-style narration and a World War II setting couldn't help bring viewers onto the same page. The double entendres flying fast and furious are part of the problem -- most viewers lack the book learning needed to keep up. But Branagh isn't catering to the scholars, either; in fact, he seems to have no discernible audience in mind whatever. He made the film to indulge a private, untranslatable vision, flexing his independence and abusing his final cut, all for the sake of ill-advised experimentation. It wasn't a bad idea to dust off the classic show tunes and use them as frivolous mood setters. But they don't enhance Shakespeare's minimal story, and the choreography that accompanies them is utterly conventional. Only Adrian Lester approaches the graceful maneuvers of a Fred Astaire, and the rest of the cast is so jumbled and mismatched from different pockets of cinema, they seem chosen from a hat. Since this blindfolded approach extends throughout, it's doubtful Branagh will get another chance at this kind of unchecked fumbling.
by Derek Armstrong review