I heard great things about this movie but I was not impressed.
A simple test for whether you will like this or not....
Noah All | 10/07/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"A quick scroll through the reviews shows a sharp divide. Some like this Hollywood-style rendition of Midsummer's Night while others, (to be polite) do not. To make matters more confusing, several reviews are deceptive because the reviewer seriously misjudges his/her depth of experience with this kind thing. To find out your probable reaction in less than 20 seconds, just answer these questions:
Do you see live Shakespeare every year or two? Do you know who Iago is? Who Prospero is? Do you know what the Queen Mab speech is? Have you seen a film with Ian McClellan in a Shakespearean role?
If you mostly answered "yes," you are likely to squirm in pain throughout this movie. (See Category B below.) On the other hand, if you are not particularly conversant with Shakespeare (if you answered "no" to more than a couple questions above, you're not, something many reviewers both in the newspapers and here fail to fathom), chances actually become much higher that you will be okay with this. (See Category A.)
Category A: If you enjoy movies and have read a few of the Bard's plays here and there, perhaps back in school, you might be enjoy this. The Hollywood actors provide familiar faces, and a couple give respectable performances--Kevin Kline, for instance. If you find Shakespeare too long, the play here has been lopped roughly in half. If you find Elizabethan dialogue goes by too fast, several visuals have been inserted, generally slowing the pace.
The problem is this: When you finish watching, you might be tempted to think this story is just a lark and that Shakespeare was just writing wierd stuff about faeries. But that's just this movie's hacked-up version of the story, not Shakespeare's actual play. If you're curious, watch the BBC version. You will see just how much dramatic weight has been cut, and how the play is exponentially more poetic and thought-provoking than what this pedestrian movie would lead you to think.
Category B: If you could answer most of the questions above (or have recently read this play), you will likely roll your eyes throughout this movie. Despite its cagey marketing, this is NOT a Kenneth Branagh-type affair where Hollywood actors are tossed into minor roles for financial reasons. This movie is Hollywood through and through, meaning inane special effects and actors, for the most part, way out of their league. (The exceptions, like Bernard Hill, appear to have been cast to give the movie at least a veneer of authenticity.)
Worst of all, the director, in typical Hollywood fashion, does not trust the viewer and does not trust the Bard. So he has inserted several ponderous minutes of Hollywood-style back story for Bottom. Silly sight gags, with no relation to the text, abound. It's as if the director doesn't think the Bard is actually funny. All the while, some of the most humorous lines are cut or, worse, delivered with no understanding of their meaning. Stick with the BBC version for real Shakespeare.
By the way, many reviewers have scratched their heads at why they shot this as 19th Century Tuscany. Just follow the Hollywood thinking. Branagh's Much Ado had just come out, set in 19th Century Tuscany just the year before....
Lyrical and Truly Enchanting
Reviewer | 05/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The village of Monte Athena, Italy, at the turn of the Nineteenth Century is the setting for this delightful version of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," directed by Michael Hoffman. Bustles are in decline, and a new invention, the bicycle, is rising in popularity; and on this one particular night in the forest, mortals and fairies come together for a mirthful interlude rife with mischief, unsolicited intercession and the pursuit of love. This is a most engaging production, highlighted by a number of outstanding performances, beautiful photography and a wonderful score by Simon Boswell which features the talents of Cecilia Bartoli, Luciano Pavarotti, Renee Fleming and Roberto Alagna. Kevin kline gives an especially noteworthy performance as bottom, while Rupert Everett (Oberon), Dominic West (Lysander), Anna Friel (Hermia) and Sam Rockwell (Flute) are also exemplary. Michelle Pfeiffer is absolutely stunning as Titania, Queen of the Fairies, and Stanley Tucci delivers a nimble Puck. There are some wonderful moments in this movie, and one especially memorable scene in which Bottom and his troop perform "Pyramus and Thisbe" for the Duke (David Strathairn) and Hippolyta (Sophie Marceau); it is hysterical. Rounding out this superb cast are Calista Flockhart (Helena), Christian Bale (Demetrius), Roger Rees (Quince), Max Wright (Starveling), Gregory Jbara (Snug), Bill Irwin (Snout), Bernard Hill (Egeus) and John Sessions (Philostrate). Extremely well done, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a comedy that will lift your spirits and keep you smiling for hours. A great addition to anyone's video collection, this one is not to be missed."
The View of a Shakespeare "Purist"
Thomas P. Keelan | Miami, FL | 02/16/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It always amazes me that people think that a Shakespeare "purist," a true lover of Shakespeare, won't like any new version. I teach a Shakespeare course, I've studied Shakespeare at Oxford, I've seen 30 or so productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and I've got news for you. This video is just fine! True Shakespeare buffs are theater people, not dusty curmudgeons so old they fart dust. I have seen about 15 versions of AMND, and this certainly holds its own. The setting is a fantasy world anyway, so putting it in Tuscany does not violate any "rule." There are some niggling complaints: Kline's Bottom is a little too sad, and Callista Flockhart is supposed to be playing the ugly one. She is not convincing. There are many gems as well, Rupert Everett's lithe,sensuous Oberon foremost among them. A bit of trivia: one of Christian Bale's earliest roles was as the boy in Branagh's Henry V, and he continues to delight. You may watch this video, enjoy it, AND consider yourself a Shakespearean. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Enjoy."
A vision of delightful comedy and enchanting magic...
Leslie Fretwell | Oklahoma City, OK | 09/19/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a truly enchanting portrayal of Shakespeare's finest and most magical comedy. It is a richly woven tapestry of laughter and love with a generous sprinkling of fairy dust. This film version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" appears to follow word for word Shakespeare's original masterpiece, only exchanging the time and place of the story from classical Athens to what appeared to be late nineteenth century Italy. The film's scenery, from the mysterious and evocative depths of the enchanted wood to Theseus' richly appointed palace, was magnificent. And the actors themselves were both delightful and compelling. Michelle Pfeiffer was enchantingly beautiful as Titania, the Queen of the Fairies, and Rupert Everett was in his element as her darkly handsome and commanding consort, Oberon. But it was Kevine Kline in his portrayal of Bottom, the enchanted ass, who truly stole the show. I can honestly say that this was one of the most truly beautiful and delightful films I have ever seen."