It's been 12 years since Prospera (Mirren) and her daughter Miranda (Jones) were banished from their homeland, so Prospera orchestrates a storm to maroon her tormenters on her island home. With the help of sprite Arial (Whishaw), she divides them into three groups: the king (Straithairn) and his brother (Cumming), along with Prospera's brother (Cooper) and wise Gonzalo (Conti), are lost in madness; the wacky Trinculo and Stephano (Brand and Molina) meet up with slave Caliban (Hounsou) and run in circles; and the king's son Ferdinand (Carney) is diverted to meet Miranda.
Visually the film looks extremely deliberate, from the elaborate, stagey costumes to the almost Burtonesque set design. But it's so arch and sculpted that it the fantastical story is never meaningfully grounded in real life. At least the cast members bring an earthy honesty to the roles, most notably Mirren, who snaps the period dialog to vivid life while glowering menacingly at everyone else. Whishaw captures an intriguing naked androgyny, Hounsou is good in a difficult role, and Jones and Carney generate a whiff of chemistry.
Everyone else is here for comic relief.
But the continual zany farce is a little exhausting. Sure, the anachronistic slapstick of Brand and Molina keeps things from getting dull. And by changing Prospero's gender, the filmmakers add new depth to the plot. On the other hand, everything is simply too purposefully wacky. And while the Hawaiian locations look amazing, the visual effects are uneven; some are terrific, but most are pretty cheesy.
In the end, the story is funny and thought-provoking, but not very cinematic.
There's little focus or momentum to it, the scary scenes aren't remotely tense, and the humour often resorts to gross-out gags or physical mayhem rather than anything as clever as Shakespeare's dialog. All of this makes it difficult to generate any real sympathy for the characters, whether they're good or selfish, consumed with love or revenge. But it would be great on stage.
Run time: 110 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th February 2011
Box Office USA: $0.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $346.6 thousand
Distributed by: Touchstone Pictures/Miramax Films
Production compaines: Touchstone Pictures, Miramax Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 30%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 60
IMDB: 5.4 / 10
Director: Julie Taymor
Screenwriter: Julie Taymor
Starring: Felicity Jones as Miranda, Reeve Carney as Prince Ferdinand, David Strathairn as King Alonso, Tom Conti as Gonzalo, Alfred Molina as Stephano, Djimon Hounsou as Caliban, Russell Brand as Trinculo, Alan Cumming as Sebastian, Chris Cooper as Antonio, Helen Mirren as Prospera, Ben Whishaw as Ariel, Jude Akuwudike as Boatswain
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