Dir: Kenneth Branagh. UK. 1999. 93 mins.
Prod cos: Pathe Pictures, Miramax, Intermedia, Arts Council of England, Le Studio Canal Plus. Int'l sales: Intermedia. Prods: Branagh, David Barron. Exec prods: Guy East, Nigel Sinclair, Alexis Lloyd, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein. Scr: Branagh, adapting from Shakespeare. DoP: Alex Thomson. Prod design: Tim Harvey. Eds: Daniel Farrell, Neil Farrell. Mus: Patrick Doyle. Main cast: Branagh, Alicia Silverstone, Alessandro Nivola, Natascha McElhone, Nathan Lane,Tim Spall, Richard Briers.
Love's Labour's Lost as a Hollywood musical' The mind boggles. But it needn't. This is, after all, one of the Bard's blander, more frolicsome comedies, quite capable of being interspersed with songs and dances, like a Bollywood movie made in England. You feel Shakespeare, no stranger to fitting up the times, would not have disapproved. The result isn't exactly a classic but it's fun'short, sharp and fast-paced. Some can speak the lines better than others, like Branagh as the lovelorn Berowne, Richard Briers as old Nathaniel and, more surprisingly, Alicia Silverstone as the Princess. But most do so perfectly adequately.
It's not so obvious that the rendition of standards such as I've Got A Crush On You and Let's Face The Music And Dance are not much better than might be seen in a particularly good student revue. Likewise the dancing, though Adrian Lester as Dumaine shows the way, and there's always the experienced Nathan Lane as Costard to fall back on. But even he and Tim Spall can't do much with the comics but overplay and hope for the best. That's Shakespeare's fault. So, on the whole, a very pleasant surprise from Branagh and co, who lack nothing in either enthusiasm or conviction. Some may frown. But they'd be killjoys.