The Tempest: movie review

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Julie Taymor's rendering of Shakespeare's final play 'The Tempest' takes the wind out of it sails, despite a stellar cast.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Disney/AP
Helen Mirren is shown in a scene from the film 'The Tempest.'

Maybe her mind was on other things – like preparing the troubled Broadway musical "Spider-Man" maybe? – but Julie Taymor has not done right by the Bard. Her 1999 "Titus" was powerful, but "The Tempest" is weak tea indeed. Shakespeare's (arguably) final play is already such a poetic imaginarium that making a movie out of it seems redundant. It's a visual feast on the page.

It certainly isn't onscreen, at least the way it's been done here. (The best "Tempest" remains the sci-fi makeover "Forbidden Planet.") Taymor's rendition, which misuses a good cast, including Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounsou, David Strathairn, and Tom Conti, unwisely undergoes a gender-switch in which the banished ruler-magician Prospero becomes Prospera – i.e., Helen Mirren.

Normally I'd watch Helen Mirren in anything, even if she was just putting out the laundry or reading the phone book. But, given the roteness of her line readings here, it might have been better if the phone book rather than Shakespeare was her text. When she launches into her "Our revels now are ended" soliloquy, I felt like saying, "They haven't begun!" Grade: C- (Rated PG-13 for some nudity, suggestive content, and scary images.)

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