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This all-star version of Shakespeare's comedy is gorgeously shot in Tuscany, complete with a magical forest, breathtaking landscapes, beautiful villas, picturesque villages, stunning period costumes--oh wait, there's supposed to be a story here, too! Hoffman hijacks Shakespeare's basic premise but doesn't instill it with much more than surface shine and transplants it to turn-of-the-century Italy. Ergo, it's left up to the actors to find the heart and soul of this classic play, in which the fairies of the forest play mix and match with four young lovers, courtesy of a magical love potion. Hoffman couldn't ask for better (or better looking) actors to play Shakespeare's dreamlike love games--Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, Christian Bale, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Kline, Anna Friel, Dominic West, the list goes on and on--but he sure as heck doesn't know what to do with them, aside from putting them in various states of undress. Only Flockhart (as the lovestruck Helena), Tucci (a sprightly Puck), Pfeiffer (dazzling and funny as the queen of the fairies), and especially the sublime Kline (as weaver-turned-donkey Bottom) seem to connect with their characters in ways that make this adaptation occasionally soar; the rest are inexplicably left to flounder. Hoffman does seem to set himself right with the film's climax, when Bottom's amateur acting troupe hilariously enacts the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe (it helps that the troupe includes Roger Rees, Sam Rockwell, and Bill Irwin).

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