In Victorian England, two young ladies are convinced they can only fall in love with men named "Earnest," so wealthy Jack (Colin Firth) and his scoundrel friend Algernon (Rupert Everett) adopt that name and the result is unrestrained hilarity. (NOT.)
This misguided version of Oscar Wilde's well-loved stage play suffers from poor direction at every turn. The sets and costumes are too brightly colored, the actors are too tanned and robust, and their mannerisms are so distinctly modern that one never believes it's the 1890s. One really vulgar addition to the original has two characters getting their beloved's names tattooed, colorfully, on their bums. *shudder* Colin Firth and Rupert Everett are both handsome, but they don't capture the period and they often mumble, which is unforgivable since the language is the best part of the show. The two young ladies are sadly miscast: Although Reese Witherspoon does a respectable English accent, she has to work so hard at it that it's distracting and she looks very 21st century. Frances O'Connor as Jack's love interest is pushy and unlikable. The real star of the film is Judi Drench who displays the perfect regal elegance and snobbiness her part requires.
The movie is pretty boring until the last 30 minutes, when all the (supposed) wackiness of two men calling themselves "Earnest" finally starts to make sense and several coincidences pay off. Overall, however, this dismal reworking of a hilarious play has neither wit nor humor.
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