The latest adaptation of Romeo and Juliet gives us a traditional retelling of the well-known tale of passionate lovers... minus the passion. Somehow the film turns a forbidden love story, which is inherently exciting, into a rather bland and unmemorable take on Shakespeare's play. Lacking the intensity that the story calls for, this version of Romeo and Juliet fails to excite.
Assuming that the audience knows the play well enough, the film follows two youngsters, Romeo (Douglas Booth) and Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld), who are destined to never be together because of their feuding families, and explains little else. Director Carlo Carlei (The Flight of the Innocent) wants us to believe in their whirlwind romance, but the film is never able to successfully pull the audience into the supposedly heart-wrenching tale because of the lack of chemistry between Booth and Steinfeld. Steinfeld has difficulty pulling off Shakespeare's prose, Booth comes off as a neurotic boy-band heartthrob who speaks the dialogue well but doesn't seem to know what he's saying, and the both of them together play the part of star-crossed lovers, but with a veil of insincerity. Disappointingly, the story, which is meant to sweep us off our feet and make us believe that these two strangers love each other enough to die for the other, leaves us wondering why they're even together in the first place.
The restrained, and often times awkward romance is further watered down by screenwriter Julian Fellowes' (Downton Abbey) decision to streamline the dialogue and Carlei's lukewarm take on the tale. The intention was to stay faithful to the original Romeo and Juliet — like Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 adaptation did — and at the same time be as fresh as Baz Luhrmann's version with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio (so as to be hip with the younger generation), but instead it comes off as a dumbed-down take of the classic story.
While the film's leads lack chemistry, its older, supporting cast excels. With the likes of Paul Giamatti (Friar Laurence) and Homeland's Damian Lewis (Lord Capulet) — two actors who have had their fair share of experience with Shakespeare — gracing the cast with their dominating performances, the gap between the actors who have come ready to do Shakespeare's words justice, and those who have not, is quite clear. Save for Kodi Smit-McPhee's (The Road) endearing take on Benvolio, Romeo's cousin, the strongest performances generally come from the older cast members.
As for the scenery, Carlei chose to film the movie where it was set: Verona and Mantua. Unfortunately, the background is oftentimes so beautiful that it distracts from the acting, which truth be told, is probably not something to brag about.
With a new adaptation on our hands, it’s a shame that it doesn’t stand out from the rest. Yes, every generation deserves its own Romeo and Juliet, but if we have to wait almost two decades to see it, it better be worth the wait.
For a few years in the '60s and '70s producer Gerry Anderson made "supermarionation" all the rage in the world of British children's television. His stop-motion puppets starred in a number of sci-fi adventure series most memorably Thunderbirds which followed the exploits of International Rescue -- a team comprised of ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his sons. Based out of their secret fortress on Treasure Island the Tracys (aided by lovely secret agent Lady Penelope) used their amazing rocket-powered vehicles to prevent disasters and save lives around the world. Now 40 years after Thunderbirds' TV debut Star Trek vet Jonathan Frakes has brought Anderson's characters to life on the big screen. Front and center is youngest son Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) who dreams of the day he too can pilot one of his family's fab ships and lead missions. But first he has to prove himself to his father Jeff (Bill Paxton). That opportunity comes sooner than either expects when mysterious villain The Hood (Ben Kingsley) strands Jeff and the older Tracy boys in space and attacks Treasure Island. With only his friends Tintin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and Fermat (Soren Fulton) to help him Alan has to grow up quickly if he wants to save his family ... and the world!
It would be easy to mock several of the performances in Thunderbirds-- to chide Paxton for his earnest seriousness as Tracy patriarch Jeff to dismiss Corbet's angst-tinged eagerness as Alan to roll your eyes at Kingsley's over-the-top mystical fierceness as The Hood and to wince at Fulton and Anthony Edwards' nerdy stuttering as science whizzes Fermat and his dad Brains. But actors are only as good as their script and the one Frakes has given his cast (courtesy of screenwriters William Osborne and Michael McCullers) is weak and clichéd at best filled with after-school-special-worthy lessons for Alan to learn. "You can't save everyone " Jeff tells his son somberly and even Tintin has a moral for her crush when he's feeling selfish and indulging in self-pity: "This is hard on all of us Alan." Talk about insight! What makes it even more frustrating is knowing that the actors are capable of much more even the kids: Both Corbet and Hudgens did well with supporting roles in Thirteen. Thunderbirds' only real bright spot is Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope. A cross between Reese Witherspoon's Elle in Legally Blonde and Jennifer Garner's Sydney on Alias Myles' Lady P doesn't let her pink couture wardrobe prevent her from coolly kicking ass when the situation demands it. Attended by her droll driver/man-of-all-trades Parker (Ron Cook) Lady Penelope is a fresh feisty heroine with all of the film's best lines -- and the coolest car to boot.
Frakes cut his directorial teeth on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and his first feature film was Star Trek: First Contact so he would seem like a natural choice to bring a cult sci-fi TV show to the big screen. Unfortunately while he does an admirable job re-creating (and improving on) the original Thunderbirds' mod sets cool ships and special effects (which are fine if a bit more TV-sized than summer blockbustery) Frakes can't seem to decide who his audience is. If he was aiming at grown-ups who remember the show fondly from their own childhood he should have embraced the source material's campiness (à la Starsky and Hutch) rather than restricting it to the Tracys' plastic Barbie-like furniture and Lady P's bouffant hairdo. If on the other hand Frakes was hoping to entertain today's kids he should have really reinvented the show for a 21st-century world (à la Stephen Hopkins'1998 Lost in Space) rather than clinging to the '60s references As it is he's stuck somewhere in the middle leaving adults bored during the kids-on-an-adventure bits and children mystified by the handful of jokes aimed at their parents.