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Set in the 1930s, this comedy revolves around Maurice and Arthur (Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci), two out of work actors who stow away on a cruise ship when they are wrongly accused of assaulting the famous actor Jeremy Burtom (Alfred Molina). However, Burtom is also on the cruise ship, along with a cast of colourful characters, which means that the situation goes from bad to worse for the two hapless heroes.

With a supporting cast including Billy Connolly, Campbell Scott, Allison Janney, Tony Shalhoub and Steve Buscemi, you might think that this couldn’t go wrong – and it doesn’t. Well, for the characters it does, but with hilarious results for the viewer.

Tucci and Platt are incredibly funny as Arthur and Maurice, looking for all the world like a modern day Laurel and Hardy (and by coincidence, played by actors called Stanley and Oliver too!) There is a lot of slapstick and the whole film has a very zany feel to it, with all the cast giving it their all. Campbell Scott was for me, the funniest character, as a German member of staff. I have admired him as an actor for a long time, but this is the first time I have seen him in an out-and-out comedy, and he totally stole all of his scenes.

I watched this film on my own, and when I do that, it’s rare for me to actually laugh out loud (very common apparently) but this film actually did make me do that on several occasions. I loved the farce, the cleverness of the lines and the absurdity of the situation. This film has definitely gone straight into my top ten films of all time.

Highly recommend, especially for fans of slapstick, or the old silent comedy films of Laurel and Hardy or The Marx Brothers. Brilliant!

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Year of release: 1998

Director: Stanley Tucci

Producers: Jonathan Filley, Elizabeth W. Alexander, Stanley Tucci

Writer: Stanley Tucci

Main cast: Stanley Tucci, Oliver Platt, Campbell Scott, Steve Buscemi, Alfred Molina, Lili Taylor, Tony Shalhoub, Teagle F Bougere, Allison Janney, Matt McGrath, Richard Jenkins, Billy Connolly

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This review refers to the 2006 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, directed by Kenneth Branagh. There are some excellent synopses of the story online, but in essence it concerns the love between Rosalind, the daughter of Duke Senior, who is usurped from his court by his brother Duke Frederick. Rosalind is forced to leave the court – accompanied by her friend Celia, daughter of Frederick – and live in the forest, where Orlando, who was lovestruck from the first moment that he met Rosalind, is trying to find her. As with many of Shakespeare’s plays, mistaken identity is a factor – Rosalind pretends to be a boy named ‘Ganymede’ and offers counsel to Orlando, to help him get over Rosalind. Around this central story are other sub-plots of love, romance, and the search for happiness and meaning.

In this version, the story is transported to Japan – this was a move which received mixed reviews. For my part, I thought it worked beautifully, affording some wonderful scenery, which was photographed beautifully. Bryce Dallas Howard was beyond stunning as Rosalind – she was luminous, and it was easy to see how Orlando became so entranced by her. Romola Garai played Celia, Rosalind’s best friend, and was great in the part, amply demonstrating why she is carving out a career as a respected actress. In truth, it is hard to select just one member of the cast as stand-out, as they were uniformly excellent. Brian Blessed starred as both Duke Senior and Duke Frederick, and made the two characters very distinctive, showing the harshness and cruelty of Frederick, and the kindly gentleness of Senior. Kevin Kline shines as a melancholy lord, and Alfred Molina puts in a great turn as Touchstone, a court fool (jester of sorts) who accompanies Rosalind and Celia when they leave the court. Other terrific performances include David Oyelowo as Orlando and Adrian Lester as Oliver (Orlando’s brother).

I also loved the epilogue in which the fourth wall is well and truly broken in a lovely way. Overall, this was a delightful, colourful, romantic adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s comedies, and I highly recommend it both to fans and non-fans of the Bard.

Year of release: 2006

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Producers: Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund, Simon Moseley

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Kenneth Branagh

Main cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Romola Garai, Brian Blessed, David Oyelowo, Kevin Kline, Adrian Lester, Alfred Molina

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Click here for my review of the televised live performance of the play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in 2009.

Click here for my review of the play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in May 2013

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