The Merchant of Venice is the latest of the Bard’s tales set to film. It features Joseph Fiennes as Bassanio, Jeremy Irons as Antonio, and Al Pacino as Shylock. Directed by Michael Radford, it is a really good adaptation. I have really grown weary of the ‘modernized’ takes on Shakespeare’s works. Like any of the films that uses his original dialogue, it takes a couple minutes to get in the flow – but suddenly it clicks and it is as if you have spoken Shakespearean English all your life. Pacino’s Shylock was amazing and for that reason alone – it is a must see.

There were two problems with the film however. First was the fact that Radford felt obliged to explain anti-semetism so as to make Shylock’s character more sympathetic. I think that the opening explanation written out on the screen is an insult to Shakespeare and to Pacino. Shakespeare has been called anti-semetic, but seriously, can someone put the words, “If you prick me, do I not bleed?” in the mouth of Shylock without being sympathetic to the Jewish plight? Pacino should be insulted in that the written explanation is tantamount to saying that Pacino is incapable of creating a sympathetic Shylock.

The second problem with the film is Hollywood’s constant need to force homosexuality on the audience. The Bassanio and Antonio relationship came across, albeit thinly veiled, as homosexual. Sure, the language of the day was much more amorous between men, but there was no need for the actors to give the “knowing glances” and “gentle touches” suggestive of Queer Eye for the Venetian Guy.

If you enjoy Shakespeare… if you enjoy good acting… if you enjoy great sets… see this film.

RATING 8 out of 10

At the other extreme, being a huge Ben Stiller fan, and having totally missed the short-lived Ben Stiller Show on HBO, I decided to check it out. It was pretty lame. The writing focused too much on satire and not enough on FUNNY! I can see why it got cancelled so quickly. I won’t hold this against Stiller though who has proven he can produce a stinker (Duplex) and then come right back with something funny (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story ).

RATING 4 out of 10