Julie Taymor, the person responsible (in a great way) for Broadway's version of Disney's The Lion King, is the same person responsible (this time in a bad way) for the new film version of William Shakespeare's first play, Titus Andronicus, shortened to Titus. If only the film was as short as the title. Although visually, the film is stunning, the acting is overdone and laughable. Titus is a story about revenge, revenge, and more revenge. Every character is reprehensible in one way or another, and the tone of the film is darkly comic.

The film opens with mud encrusted Roman soldiers marching in a manner similar to the dancing in Michael Jackson's Thriller video. The Romans under the command of General Titus (Anthony Hopkins, Mission Impossible 2, Instinct) is returning victorious from his conquest of the Goths. He brings with him the Queen of the Goths, Tamara (Jessica Lange, Hush, Cousin Bette) and her three sons. He promptly executes on of them, leaving Tamara alone with her other sons, Chiron (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Ride With the Devil, B. Monkey) and Demetrius (Matthew Rhys, House of America), who begin plotting revenge on Titus with Marcus (Harry Lennix, Clockers, Get on the Bus), a Moor and lover of Tamara. Tamara marries Emperor Saturninus (Alan Cumming, Plunkett and Macleane, Eyes Wide Shut) and becomes Empress, allowing her to better accomplish her plans against Titus. Her campaign involves slowly ripping apart Titus' family, literally, in the case of his daughter Lavinia (Laura Fraser, Virtual Sexuality, Cousin Bette). These actions drive Titus to retaliate, and the results are both disgusting and funny.

A Shakespeare play is usually an actor's dream. A good performance in a classic play can help cement an actor's reputation. This is not the case in Titus. Hopkins and Lange are great actors, but waver between serious drama and histrionic overacting. Their roles do call for some overemoting, but watching Hopkins virtually replay his Hannibal Lecter role produces unintentional laughs. Rhys-Meyers is playing the same crazy person he seems to play in every movie. It is getting kind of old watching him yell and flail his arms wildly before doing something violent in each movie. On the other hand, Cumming, whose roles are usually one dimensional, displays a surprising amount of depth and rage in his role. Lennix does the best (which sadly is not that great) as the scheming Aaron.

Titus would be better if the sound was off. Writer/director Taymor does an incredible job melding time periods together to form a strange setting, which seems lost in time. The first sign of this is in the beginning, where following the muddy soldiers are motorcycle riding soldiers, horse drawn chariots, and then soldiers riding on mini-tanks. Politicians speak in front of microphones one minute, and revelers lounge beside a Roman bath in another. The costumes also display a schizophrenic sense of time, but Taymor makes them all blend together seamlessly. Characters are dressed in togas one moment and elegant suits and ties in another. Scenes take place in old palaces and modern mansions. The effect is breathtaking. But the look isn't enough the save an otherwise bad movie.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
2 hours, 40 minutes, Rated R for strong violence and sexual images.

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