THE TEMPEST is awfully silly. But as the world's last remaining fan of director Julie Taymor (Titus, Frida, and Broadway's The Lion King), it is my duty to point out the good in her latest adaptation of a Shakespeare play: Uh, Helen Mirren as Prospera, a female version of the play's sorcerer, is wonderful as per the usual; Russell Brand is a goofball as the bottle-guzzling sot Trinculo; and the cast is chockablock with actors like David Strathairn, Alan Cumming, and Chris Cooper, who can iambic all over any pentameter. But sadly, Taymor's The Tempest is ridiculous.
On the 400th anniversary of the Bard's last play, Taymor (who might be celebrating her last play with Broadway's messy money pit, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark) sprinkles all sorts of empty calories over The Tempest. The cast desperately tries to scream Shakespeare over a howling CG storm at sea. A cheesy rock song blares as the androgynous sprite Ariel (Ben Wishaw) pyrotechnics the crap out of a ship, crushing it on the shores of a deserted island. Shipwrecked teenagers touch each other's faces with feather-soft adoration while singing cringing ballads. And poor Prospera is saddled with the ugliest coat this side of Joseph's technicolor dreams.
Taymor is phoning it in with this one. She's very reliably daring with her audacious visions, whether they gel or look like the Beatle-tastic mess that was 2007's Across the Universe, but she is never, ever boring. But The Tempest, while more ludicrous than dull, is her most uninspired effort to date. What a truly wasted opportunity to put her fingerprints on a work that's right up her alley, a great tragicomedy full of mystical and romantic elements. So instead of Taymor's bombastic and fantastic adaptation of Shakespeare in Titus, we get this tepid tempest in a teacup.