Love's Labour's Lost review

Ken's back in the director's chair, working once again with his favourite scriptwriter, Mr Shakespeare. Following the star-studded Much Ado About Nothing, the satirical In The Bleak Midwinter and the epic Hamlet, Branagh's attention has turned to one of The Bardster's lesser known comedies, Love's Labour's Lost. But don't expect a Romeo&Juliet-style, MTV'd up modernisation - - this is an all-singing, all-dancing musical, much in the same vein as Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You.

The text has been stripped down to the bare bones and the action transported to the year 1939. With the film parodying '30s and '40s Hollywood musicals, many of the play's lengthier scenes have been cut and replaced by song-and-dance numbers, ranging from Esther Williams-style synchronised swimming sequences to top-hat-and-tails tap routines, all to classic tunes from the likes of Cole Porter and George Gershwin.

As with his other adaptations, Branagh has here assembled an international cast, mixing stage veterans with more familiar movie actors. Nathan Lane and Adrian Lester, both well known for their musical ability, steal the majority of the big numbers, but the rest of the cast hold their own. Natascha McElhone's vocalisations are particularly impressive, and top hats should go off to Branagh for managing to sing, dance and direct simultaneously. Silverstone's Princess, however, is less convincing, although she'll doubtless pull in a younger crowd.

Love's Labour's Lost is not one of Shakespeare's finest comedies, lacking the heartfelt affection of Much Ado About Nothing and the clever love games of As You Like It. It's a simple story, made even simpler in this adaptation and the songs work better than the text. Still, it's refreshing to see a new musical hit the big screen.

Branagh's latest Shakespeare adaptation lacks some of the magic of his previous reworkings - - but if you fancy something a bit different, and have a soft spot for '40s musicals, then you may find this surprisingly good fun.

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