No wow factor in R&J remake

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ROMEO & JULIET
Simon Thomson, Cert 15
Two Stars

THE LATEST adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is the tale of two young, star-crossed lovers who, despite the enmity of their families, will not silence their desire to... fight crime! Only kidding – this is another paint-by-numbers remake of the same Romeo and Juliet you already know and love/hate or just don’t care about.

We have all now seen so much Shakespeare that a remake (especially of the quintessential romance) can only be justified if it is an act of reinvention. The intention behind this Romeo and Juliet was to expose “the current generation […] to a more traditional, romantic vision of the play.” Unfortunately, it has no depth or originality so the end result is both conservative and unjustifiable.

This conservatism is confirmed by the appointment of Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes as screenwriter. If you are aiming to connect with Twilight fans, he may not be the obvious choice. Unsurprisingly, his screenplay, with major changes, satisfies neither purists nor those who loath Shakespeare, as the language is still largely abstruse.

Visually, Romeo and Juliet is sumptuous. Renaissance Verona is recreated as an image of airbrushed perfection. The buildings are beautiful, and the costumes are lavish adorned with throughly gaudy jewellery as they would be from co-producer Swarovski.

On paper the cast looks promising. Douglas Booth as Romeo has that off, angular prettiness that girls find so alluring in R-Patz. His lover Hailee Steinfeld is that sort of bright-eyed, girl-next-door tweens can project themselves on. And Ed Westwickas’ Tybalt has a massive female following from his role on Gossip Girl.

But none of this quite works because in cutting a play that runs over three hours down to feature length everything becomes rushed. The whirlwind romance of the two leads, which always stretches credibility, is completely unbelievable here. The sense that things are unfolding too quickly is not helped by the romantic soundtrack, which is massively overblown.

While Romeo and Juliet isn’t exactly a bad film, it is unnecessary. If you want to see a period production watch Franco Zeffirelli’s, and if you want one that appeals to “the current generation” watch Baz Luhrmann’s.