Hamlet (1996)

Bomb Rating: 

Branagh wheels out the big Hollywood guns like he's hosting a marathon celebrity roast for the Big Bard himself.

"Hamlet," one of Shakespeare's most famous plays, is rarely performed in its epic entirety (four hours!). Consequently, the news that KennethBranagh would be tackling the work -- with a cast that includes the likes of Richard Attenborough, Julie Christie, Billy Crystal, Gerard Depardieu, John Gielgud, Charlton Heston, Derek Jacobi, Jack Lemmon, Robin Williams and Kate Winslet -- has been the source of much anticipation.

Naturally, Branagh, sporting a facial hair arrangement that looks like a diamond-shaped warning for novices considering skiing down his mouth, plays the perturbed Elsinorian prince throughout (an ass-numbingly long four hours). If you've read your Cliffs Notes lately, you know that Hamlet is pissed because his father's ghost pays a visit to indignantly announce that Uncle Claudius (Derek Jacobi) poisoned him, usurped his crown and is boinking his wife, Gertrude (Julie Christie).

About the time Hamlet starts freakin', Branagh wheels out the big Hollywood guns like he's hosting a marathon (240 minutes) celebrity roast for the Big Bard himself. Billy Crystal and Robin Williams are Hollywood trifles. Jack Lemmon is abysmal. Their mediocrity is eclipsed, however, by that of Richard Attenborough. Toward the end of the film, he emerges as the English ambassador, looking like someone just shoved him out the door of his favorite pub after several pints of Guinness.

Not surprisingly, however, Attenborough's appearance will be recognizable in the drawn visages of most of the folks emerging from the theater after enduring this epic (14,400 seconds) drivel.

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Branagh's Hamlet

Albert's picture

You know, I often wonder: "What's the point of reading your reviews?" Your website seems to have been exclusively designed to stick it to films, not to analyze them or praise them in any meaningful way. Laurence Olivier may have been, overall, a better actor than Branagh, but Branagh's film version of "Hamlet", overall, is one of the ten best Shakespeare films ever made.

The point of a Cranky Review?

Coaster's picture

Mr. Cranky is dedicated to the proposition that all movies suck in one way or another.  Some suck worse than others. 

Are you tired of seeing the same old shit from Hollywood?  Are you tired of seeing your typical critics falling all over themselves to fellate those involved in offering up the latest cinematic pap? 

If you could use a break from that, welcome to Crankyland.  Grab a beer and remember, no double-dipping the Doritos or putting the Oreo's back on the plate once you've consumed the icing. 

Wow, I saw part of this on TV just the other day.

HS's picture

Did our reviewer, too, I wonder?

Seriously, though.  Branagh's Shakespeare films are generally solid, although I never saw Othello, in which he co-starred (as Iago) but didn't direct.  Branagh gets mad props for tackling Hamlet.  He updated the setting by a century or so but let it remain a period piece.  Branagh himself acts his heart out.  I agree with the reviewer, though, that Jack Lemmon is abysmal.  It's the only BAD Lemmon performance I've ever seen (though I've erased all memory of the Grumpy Old Men films from my mind).  I don't recall Richard Attenborough - I saw the entire film when it first came on video in 1997; I wasn't up for a full sitting this time out.  I'll give it a B+ (losing points for Lemmon and for the camera, which just fucking sits there).

 

HS

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