After working with Redford, Freeman and J-Lo in British Columbia, director Lasse Hallstrom headed to Venice to film this tale of the legendary womanizer. Starring Heath Ledger as the title character, the movie opens with him searching for a wife, as his rep for making time for quite a few ladies has resulted in him being threatened for deportation from 1700's Venice. Although many want to see him hung, his connections allow him an option - either get married or get deported.
The picture sees 'nova going through a series of potential brides until he finds Victoria (Natalie Dormer). However, he falls for the one most unlikely - Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller), a feminist who writes under a false name and would be utterly and completely against the idea of having to do anything with Casanova. However, that's not who she's going to meet - she's engaged to a man she's conveniently never met (her mother has set things up so that they'll be financially set) - Papprizzio (Oliver Platt), famous for his lard business.
So, Casanova manages to get the real Papprizzio out of the way in order to pretend to be him, but when Pucci (Jeremy Irons) is sent by the church with the intent to investigate and get rid of Casanova, 'nova claims to be Papprizzio and offers to help search for Cassanova. Much mistaken identity ensues (to the point where it gets rather tedious), but laughs are in somewhat short supply.
Hallstrom's picture is thin and yet, way too busy. Supporting characters could have been deleted, the story is a bit of a mess and attempts at humor seem forced - Hallstrom has someone take a random tumble every so often. The whole thing seems like an art-house sitcom - we've seen this story before many, many times and while it is presented in stunning fashion here, it's still just not fresh. Additionally, despite being an R-rated picture (it could have easily been PG-13), there's not much sensuality on display here - surprising for this kind of romantic tale.
The performances are fine enough, but certainly no one gives their best effort here. Ledger offers a passable performance and seems to be having a bit of fun with the role. Miller, on the other hand, comes up short, partially due to an underwritten character. She doesn't share much chemistry with Ledger in their scenes together, either. The other issue here is that there are too many characters, and it takes focus away from the leads. Somewhat better are the actors on the outskirts: Irons can do this kind of role in his sleep, but he gives a fine effort here, as Lena Olin in a small role. Platt manages to give a likable performance in a role that is utterly thankless, existing only to make him the target of fat jokes.
The real star of "Casanova" is Venice, which looks like absolute perfection here, every shot a postcard-perfect setting beautifully captured by Hallstrom's usual cinematographer, Oliver Stapleton. As a visual look at Venice, the film works quite nicely. As a comedy, it takes a long and winding road to get exactly where you know it's going and doesn't provide enough fun along the way.
VIDEO: "Casanova" is presented by Touchstone Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Aside from some moments that seem a little softer than they seem to be intended to, the picture looks crisp and fairly clean throughout, doing the film's gorgeous visuals justice.
The presentation does stumble in a few spots, however. Some mild edge enhancement distracted during a few outdoor scenes, for example. A couple of traces of pixelation were also spotted. Otherwise, the picture looked mostly clean and clear - no print flaws were spotted, nor were any instances of shimmer. Colors also looked marvelous, as the rich tones looked bold and nicely saturated here, with no smearing or other concerns present.
SOUND: The DVD offers the option of either Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 audio. The audio is straightforward and pleasant, with the score nicely spread across the front speakers, sounding crystal clear. The surrounds offer up some ambience on occasion and throw in some reinforcement of the score, as well. Audio quality remained fine, with crisp music and clear dialogue that never sounded distorted or otherwise problematic.
EXTRAS: Feature-length audio commentary from director Lasse Hallstrom, "Dressing In Style" (costume design) featurette, "Creating an Adventure" (general overview of the production) featurette, "Visions of Venice" (a disappointingly short look at recreating 18th century Venice) featurette and an extended scene. Sneak previews for other titles from the studio play when the disc is started.
Final Thoughts: "Casanova" has some beautiful settings and moderately worthwhile performances, but the plot is familiar and too all over the place, while Hallstrom does not seem to know his way around comedy that well. Had the script been more focused and added a few moments of drama and weight amidst all the fizzy attempts at comedy (among other things that could have been fixed), maybe this would have been a little more involving. As is, it manages to find some moments, but is overall rather forgettable fluff. The DVD offers good audio/video quality and a decent selection of bonus features. Those interested should rent first.
The Film C