Having now seen the film, I have to wonder just why so many reviewers felt they had to stick the boot in when reviewing it. Sure, it's not a classic - but then it doesn't pretend to be. It's a bit like a cute blonde - pretty but vacuous and a bit of nonsensical fun. And we all like looking at things that are pretty and fun, don't we?
What we have here is a quirky Shakespeare-like comedy/farce set in Venice, which features so predominantly it should be considered a leading character in its own right. And it looks stunning! This is a beautifully shot movie that really shows the city off to its best advantage, and it's been beautifully transferred to DVD.
The standard farce elements are all here, with people impersonating other people and chance encounters and misunderstanding playing a large part in the plot. As with most good farces, everything works out alright in the end, although at several points one thinks things surely can't get worse for the hero of the film's title and his seemingly doomed-to-fail love interest. Think a 'Carry On' movie, but with a much stronger cast, a lot less innuendo... and a lot more class, and you've pretty much got the hang of it.
You'll recognise a lot of British character actors from TV shows like Black Adder or Victoria Wood turning in strong, fun performances, but it's the big names that really impress. Ledger is believable as Casanova, and looks like he's enjoying himself, and Sienna Miller turns in a strong performance with real on-screen chemisty between her and Ledger. But perhaps most enjoyable is the performance from Jeremy Irons - I find it hard to forget his unbelievably wooden performance in the appalling Dungeons and Dragons movie, but here he redeems himself somewhat, adding real classical acting chutzpah to the movie, whilst also being happy to play the buffoon when the script demands it. Great stuff!
And a special mention for the music soundtrack which, like Venice, seeps from every pore of this movie. Handel and Vivaldi pieces suit the Venice ambience very well but it's Alexandre Desplat's original music that stays with you throughout, seamlessly fitting in with the classics. It's not often I like a movie soundtrack enough to order the CD, but this one had me hunting the album out online.
If you don't like farce, albeit farce given a fresh interpretation by director Lasse Hallstrom, then this isn't for you. And, truth be told, it's a rental, rather than a 'must buy so I can see it again', but really this film is nowhere near as bad as the critics have made out.