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The Emperor's New Clothes review

Napoleon once called England a nation of shopkeepers, so there's a delicious irony in seeing the exiled emperor reduced to the status of a grocer in this fanciful historical comedy. But though Ian Holm delivers a terrific portrait of the diminutive despot, the conceit is ultimately too thin to sustain a whole movie.

Set in 1821, Alan Taylor's gentle farce has Napoleon escape jail on the isle of St Helena by trading places with a gauche doppelganger (Holm, again). Back in Paris, Boney intends to pick up where he left off. But history has moved on, so he turns his military mind to revolutionising the city's fruit-and-veg trade...

Attractively photographed by Alessio Gelsini Torresi (La Scorta), Emperor has more than a hint of The Madness Of King George about it. But while Nicholas Hytner's royal stage adap achieved something of a crossover success, this comedy-drama would be better off on the small screen. Which is to say it's worth watching, just not worth shelling out for.


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Available platformsMovie