27 April 2004 | ricknorwood
the sublime and the ridiculous
Beautiful words, delightful music, great acting! What could ruin such a mix. The answer, the ego of Kenneth Branagh. He is much too old for the part of a young student. His direction is absurdly literal. For example: probably the best use of the song "Heaven, I'm in heaven..." is sung by Angel Islington in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Here the song is ruined by literally yanking the singers up on wires to a ceiling painted to resemble heaven. If a song mentions a hat, the director shows us a hat, and so on. The camera is always doing things that are distracting and annoying. The choreography is nothing but a string of literal quotes, from Busby Berkley to Fred Astaire to Gene Kelly to Bob Fosse. It never flows, just jerks from quote to quote. And while the older actors are superb, there does not seem to be an actor under 25 who can do Shakespeare...they all sound as if they are mouthing words that are not a part of their vocabulary. And the slapstick -- 'taint funny Magee. After all this, I still recommend watching the film. It is much kinder to the clowns than most productions of LLL. Branagh's great speech in praise of love is worth the price of admission. He acts sincerity so well it is almost enough to make us forget what he did to Emma Thompson. And the music is ... heaven.