Love's Labour's Lost (PG) ★★½

Review Date: August 6th, 2001

Get out your top hat and tails -- the Bard goes Broadway in this adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s more obscure comedies.


Transported to 1930s Hollywood pre-World War II, the King of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) makes a solemn vow to give up women for three years so he can concentrate on his philosophical studies. His three best friends (Kenneth Branagh, Matthew Lillard and Adrian Lester) follow suit. But when the Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) and her attendants (Natascha McElhone, Carmen Ejogo and Emily Mortimer) arrive on a diplomatic visit, their pledge is threatened. Oh yeah -- and on occasion, a character or two will break out into song and dance.


Branagh is already a pro, so it’s up to his younger Bard fledglings to shoulder the daunting task of singing (none are professionals), dancing and acting with Fred Astaire leaps. Surprisingly, they carry it off well, particularly Lester, who clearly has stage experience, and McElhone, who brings a mature leading lady air that suits Branagh. Silverstone tries her hardest at tackling the words through her trademark lisp, and while her wide-eyed primness gives her the right look, she fumbles a bit with the text.


The era is well-captured by Branagh’s lens, with black-and-white newsreels narrating the looming war while the king’s joyous castle remains rich in color. Selecting standards by Cole, Kern, Porter, Berlin and Gershwin is an inspired touch. Meanwhile, the dance numbers don’t try to match Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ skill, but rather it tries to capture the atmosphere -- and it does a fine job.

Bottom Line

One of cinema’s lost genres returns as a pleasant surprise and cheek-to-cheek fun.