Monday, October 6, 2008

Bomb of the Week: Romeo + Juliet

I don't know what compelled me to watch this. I watched it sometime in late junior high or early high school and I remember thinking: "This is kind of a crappy movie." But for some reason, as I was looking for movies to watch, it seemed to jump out at me today and I thought, "It couldn't possibly be as bad as it seemed in junior high could it?" It was worse.

I assume that everyone knows the basic Romeo and Juliet plot, so I'll just dive straight into the premiss of this version. Romeo + Juliet is an attempt to update the Shakespeare's play for a modern audience, with Leonardo DiCapro and Claire Danes as the title characters. The movie is set in a Verona modeled after Venice Beach, CA, and rather than fighting with swords, the characters wield guns from fictional brands like "Dagger" or "Longsword". The dialogue remains the original Elizabethan.

My Commentary: The idea of updating Romeo and Juliet re-emerges every few years to alternately dismal and successful results. Attempts range from the famous (West Side Story) to the forgettable (The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns). This movie falls more in the "waste of time" category. The premise is a potentially good one, but trying to pair Shakespeare's Elizabethan with sunny California just doesn't gel right and the movie falls flat. Perhaps with an updated interpretation of the text the movie would be better, but I wouldn't count on it - while Danes and DiCapro manage to bring off decent performances, the rest of the characters seem clownish and heavy-handed.

Rating: **** (4 1/2 out of 10)

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