Casanova (12A) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Lasse Hallstrom, not a master of the light touch, takes to the canals of 18th-century Venice and creates a different but no less horrid big stink. His retelling of the Casanova legend owes almost nothing to history, and a great deal to the period romp and to the lesser Carry On movies, which mightn't be so bad if some scintilla of wit or mischief were discernible. Unfortunately, it offers only a galumphing one-note bawdiness that exhausts one's patience after 10 minutes.

Heath Ledger, so good in Brokeback Mountain, looks merely distracted as the famous swordsman of the boudoir - as if he can't quite believe the arrant silliness he's signed up for. Opposite him, Sienna Miller plays a proto-feminist and philosopher who abhors all that Casanova represents, thus necessitating a "comedy" of imposture wherein the lovers come together by disguising themselves beneath masks and moustaches. Laugh? You won't where to begin.

A cavalcade of middle-ranking stars pitch in - Oliver Platt, Jeremy Irons, Ken Stott - all mugging furiously, and fruitlessly. Only Tim McInnerny as the top Doge raised a smile, and that because his gormlessness fleetingly recalled Blackadder. Venice looks beautiful - it would take a dullard to make it look anything else - but oh, what a dismal farce is played out on its watery ways.

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