*. In the short interview pieces included with the DVD for this film (the last of the four ShakespeaRe-Told adaptations put out by the BBC in 2005), the writer remarks that A Midsummer Night’s Dream isn’t a play that made him laugh. This is a response I often hear from people I know who go to see Shakespeare comedies: that they’re not funny. Because if A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or The Taming of the Shrew, don’t make you laugh (and I don’t think they make many modern audiences laugh) then that’s a problem isn’t it?
*. Few things date like comedy. Old scary movies are often just as scary or scarier than today’s horror flicks. And drama can be just as intense today as it was in the 1940s. But it’s a rare comedy that still works. So a comedy written more than 400 years ago is going to need some work if it’s going to make us laugh.
*. This version of the Dream didn’t make me laugh. I did think it was a clever adaptation though, at least for the most part. The enchanted forest is a tourist getaway called Dream Park that’s hosting the wedding of Hermia. Everything gets mixed up because Hermia’s true love crashes the party and then the faeries start splashing some Love Potion No. 9 in the eyes of the young people.
*. In doing updates of Shakespeare the supernatural elements are the hardest to translate. Being modern usually means being more realistic and believable, so the faeries seem a bit out of place even in Dream Park. On the other hand, they’re also very human faeries. Almost too human. Oberon (Lennie James) is downright nasty to Titania in a way that he really isn’t in the play. This Oberon thinks she’s a slut that needs to be humiliated, and their dysfunctional relationship is mirrored in that of Theo’s marriage. The two husbands even get together for some mantalk that just doesn’t feel right. James and Bill Paterson (who plays Theo) are both likeable actors, but they really play against that here.
*. Better off are the Mechanicals, who are tasked with providing some entertainment for the wedding. Bottom (Johnny Vegas) is an aspiring stand-up comic who’s looking to be the next Ricky Gervais. What’s nicest about his transformation into an ass (which mainly just means having big ears) is that he doesn’t want to taste any of the physical delights the faeries have to offer. No, all he wants is someone to finally laugh at this jokes.
*. Puck (Dean Lennox Kelly) is a figure I’ve seen described as a “wide boy,” which is a British term I had to look up. I found him annoying. Not as annoying as Mickey Rooney, but still pretty bad. The upshot is that this is a smart version of the play but with a gritty undertone that often felt out of place. In the end there are only some good bits, and a lot that should have been reconsidered.