cranky home
Reviews since 1993:   A-E     F-N      O-Z    Posters       Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do         Search the Site

Your Donations support the Site

Top Selling DVD     Books

50 Shades of Grey
Exodus Gods and Kings
Grand Budapest Hotel
Imitation Game, The
Into the Woods

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Theory of Everything
Ride Along
We're the Millers
The Great Gatsby
The Avengers
Amazing Spider-Man
Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo
Dark Knight Trilogy
World War Z
Happy Feet 2
Iton Man 3 combo
Batman Begins
Dark Knight
Fifth Element
The Hangover
Hunger Games
James Bond 11 disc coll.
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Mission Impossible GP
Sherlock Holmes AGOS
Singing in the Rain
Snow White Huntsman
Star Trek Into Darkness combo
Star Wars Saga
21 Jump Street
Ultimate Matrix coll
X-Men First Class
X-Men Trilogy
X-Men Wolverine

 BLU-Ray for Family DVDs 
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
A Bug's Life
Chronicles of Narnia set
Harry Potter 1-8 collection
Iron Man 2 combo
Kung Fu Panda
Lord of the Rings Trilogy Pinocchio
Pirates of Caribbean trilogy
Pixar short films
Shrek the Whole Story
Sleeping Beauty
The Smurfs
Snow White & 7 Dwarfs
Star Trek motion pictures set
Star Trek TNG Season One
Star Wars Saga (1-6)
Toy Story combo
Toy Story 2 combo
Toy Story 3 combo
Wall-E SE


Search engine by FreeFind
Click to add search to YOUR web site!
click to search site

Alice in Wonderland
Beauty and the Beast
Kung Fu Panda
The Lion King
Mary Poppins 45th LE
Princess Mononoke
Shrek the Whole Story
Simpsons Movie
Spider-Man Trilogy
Spirited Away
Star Trek movies set
Star Trek TOS (TV)
ST:TNG complete tv set
Star Wars Trilogy (1-3)
Star Wars Trilogy (4-6)
Toy Story DVD combo
Toy Story 2 DVD combo
Toy Story 3 DVD combo
Wallace and Gromit
Wall-E SE

Buy Movie collectibles
TV/Movie Collectibles

movie review query engine

NY film critics online

Privacy Policy

William Shakespeare's
A Midsummer Night's Dream

Rated [PG-13], 105 minutes
Starring Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kevin Kline, Stanley Tucci
Screenplay by Michael Hoffman
Directed by Michael Hoffman

IN SHORT: A Stupendous and side splitting production, with minor reservations.

"One of the tests of Shakespeare's greatness is that people can do such rotten productions of his plays but there's something timeless in the human interactions that he's captured." -- David Mamet (from his StarTalk).

How nice, then, when the production is far from rotten. With a sumptuous production design and a final act that is downright sidesplitting, screenwriter/director Michael Hoffman's reset of what is perhaps Shakespeare's greatest romantic comedy, to Northern Italy at the turn of this century, is pretty satisfying. Only at the end do all the references to the characters as "Athenian" --the film is set in Italy and all the music is operatic slash classic -- start to get in the way. It's a minor annoyance.

More important, as I've written in reviews of previous film versions of the Bard's work is: How easy is it to follow, or more precisely how long does it take for you to understand, language that is 400 years old? Second, if you can follow it, how enjoyable is the story that plays out before you? Cranky admits, to his mother's eternal shame, that he managed to duck most everything beginning with the syllable "Shakes-" until he was past 30, excepting the Mr. Magoo version of Midsummer Night, of course. I know more of Oberon and Titania from Neil Gaiman's use of the characters in his work, so my two rules of "getting" Shakespeare, methinks, fairly represent most of the folk who tell me they read these things.

Most of A Midsummer Night's Dream scores at about an 80% rate. I find that, personally, I have more trouble with Shakespeare's flowery, romantic language than I do with his battle and high testosterone epics. Still, the core story is pretty simple. Hermia (Anna Friel) loves Lysander (Dominic West) but must marry Demetrius (Christian Bale), at father Egeus's (Bernard Hill) orders. Duke Theseus (David Straithairn) adjudicates in Egeus' favor, offering Hermia the choice of marriage or death, though becoming a nun is also mentioned. She chooses to elope and reveals her plan to Helena (Calista Flockhart) who coverts Demetrius for herself. [In 1990s terms, Helena is a stalker, but Flockhart tosses enough Allie McBeal-isms into her performance to keep it light and amusing, though the same mannerisms for some reason totally pissed off the women sitting around me.] Demetrius chases his love into the forest and he, in turn, is followed by Helena.

The forest is the domain of Fairy Queen Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her husband Oberon (Rupert Everett), who themselves are experiencing a severe marital tiff. Also in the woods are a quintet of local workers, preparing a play to present in honor of the Duke's forthcoming wedding. If I continued to explain how Oberon, with the aid of right-hand satyr Puck (Stanley Tucci), screws with the romantic entanglements of the young lovers, and makes his wife fall in love with an ass, you'd never go near a theater. Let's just say it's fairly amusing and leave it at that.

Kevin Kline is Nick Bottom, the ass, transmogrified from his humble beginnings as a lovelorn actor by a whiff of Puck's fairy dust, and he absolutely steals the show. Once the night of enchantment has ended and the day has come for the Duke's wedding and the play's performance, that's when A Midsummer Night's Dream kicks significant comedic patootie. Kline, in Master Thespian mode, bulges his eyes and overacts up wazoo, scrambling his lines to the ire of "director" Roger Rees. The supporting cast includes mime Bill Irwin (who talks, reluctantly), ALF's "dad" Max Wright (as the chain-smoking "man in the moon") and Sam Rockwell all of whom deliver gag after gag before, in true Shakespearian fashion, everybody dies.

It being a love story, of course, Love wins out in the end. A Midsummer Night's Dream is easy to follow though Cranky was not enraptured by the proceedings until the final act -- and as an epilog there is a final scene in which the restored Bottom sees Titania and realizes that his dream of true love was not a dream at all. To get an audience to feel sympathy for a buffoon is a mighty act to achieve, yet Kline does it easily. At that moment, what was predominantly an "OK" flick became something much more satisfying.

Pfeiffer and Friel look spectacular. The use of "newfangled" bicycles as principle props will have you thinking "Wicked Witch of the West" when you hear one of Calista Flockhart's early speeches, as will Kevin Kline's demonstration of how a Lion should Roar (sounding remerkably like Bert Lahr) . The special effects work creates a real magical air as Fairies become wisps of light, and vice versa. Hoffman's take is superior to (though it doesn't have the MTV look of) the Romeo+Juliet. It is shy of what remains the most spectacular relocation of Shakespeare's work, Richard III starring Ian McKellen.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for A Midsummer Night's Dream, he would have paid . . .


Date flick level, though I think teens'll stay the hell away 'cuz the actors are a lot more adult than Leo and Claire. Frankly, Cranky almost could've passed on this, but the final rave up by Kevin Kline and Co. is worth the price of admission all by itself.

click to buy A Midsummer Night's Dream vhs lbx dvd
Films by Michelle Pfeiffer (reviews) click to buy
A Thousand Acres (1997) vhs   dvd
One Fine Day (1996) vhs   dvd
Up Close and Personal (1996) vhs   dvd
Dangerous Minds (1995) vhs   dvd
Wolf (1994) vhs   dvd
Batman Returns (1992) vhs lbx dvd
Frankie and Johnny (1991) vhs   dvd
The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) vhs   dvd
Dangerous Liaisons (1988) vhs   dvd
Tequila Sunrise (1988) vhs   dvd
The Witches of Eastwick (1987) vhs   dvd
Ladyhawke (1985) vhs   dvd
Scarface (1983) vhs lbx dvd
Grease 2 (1982) vhs   dvd
Films by Kevin Kline (reviews) click to buy
Wild Wild West (1999) vhs lbx dvd
In & Out (1997) vhs   dvd
Fierce Creatures (1997) vhs lbx dvd
Dave (1993) vhs   dvd
A Fish Called Wanda (1988) vhs   dvd
The Big Chill (1983) vhs lbx dvd
Sophie's Choice (1982) vhs   dvd

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2016   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.