Midsummer Night's Dream, A (1999)

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 05/13/99 16:48:11

"A little messy, but mostly great fun."
3 stars (Average)

You know the story. If you don't, do your damn homework! So the only question remaining is have the makers stayed true to the original Shakespeare masterpiece, or have they done a Ten Things I Hate About You and started the bard spinning in his grave? The answer is somewhere in the middle. This rework is modernised to a point, but in no means is it teen, or Hollywood, crap.

With a cast like Tucci, Pfeiffer, Kline, Marceau and Everett, how could you go wrong? Well, you could add Christian Bale, David Strathairn and Ally McBeal.

Just to stray off the topic for one second, let it be known that slimming disease candidate Calista Flockhart does go topless in this film. Let it also be known that this will provide no excitement to you unless you like looking at 12 year old boys. Back to the review.

Midsummer has undergone more shake-ups over the years than any other Shakespearian piece. Modernised, humourised (is that a word?), eroticised, plagiarised. But it's always been a piece that can be malformed and still be entertaining.

In this version, the characters are moved from Greece to Italy, from olden times to the late 19th century. But there's something about this film that takes it away from the usual modernisation crap we're forced to endure...

...the production design. This is a stage play, put on film. The sets are high school stuff, the characters on screen and off too fast to be able to get bored, and the subplots are as engaging as traditionally shown. The director is putting on a play for us, and it works. Resisting the urge to go big works well, especially with such a big cast. Wouldn't you pay ten bucks to go see Kline, Flockhart, Pfeiffer, Everett, Marceua and Tucci put on a stageplay? I'd be there opening night!

But the whole thing is let down by some ordinary, even lacklustre, performances by some of the lesser lights. Bale is not even worth further discussion, and if this is his level then I fear what might happen to American Psycho. His supporting 'lovers', are mostly awful (with the exception of Dominic West and some surprising work from Flockhart - though her McBeal mannerisms seap in a lot). Strathairn is really wooden, hopelessly lost in Shakespeare.

But there's so much going on that these down-sides are well hidden, and the end scene with Sam Rockwell emptying out his heart... Awesome. That guy, mark my words, he will one day win Oscars, and not just one.

If you don't want to endure the Godzilla-like empty hype of Star Wars, grab a ticket to this one instead. You won't have to fight for a seat, and you'll enjoy yourself.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.