[Screen It]


(1996) (Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild Moderate Moderate Mild Mild
Mild Minor Minor None Minor
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Minor Moderate Mild Moderate

Drama: A kingís son seeks revenge for his fatherís death.
It has only been two months since the King of Denmarkís death and his widow, Gertrude (JULIE CHRISTIE) has already remarried. Her groom, Claudius (DEREK JACOBI), is the former kingís brother and thus he ascends to the throne. This greatly upsets Gertrudeís son, Hamlet (KENNETH BRANAGH), who believes his mother married the wrong man too soon. His doubts grow after a friend, Horatio (NICHOLAS FARRELL), informs him that he and others have seen the dead king's ghost. When Hamlet himself meets the apparition, he learns that Claudius poisoned his father to take over the monarchy. Hamletís ensuing strange behavior makes everyone think heís gone mad, including the kingís counselor, Polonius (RICHARD BRIERS) who happens to be the father of Ophelia (KATE WINSLET) who is romantically involved with Hamlet. As Hamlet lays out his plans to trap Claudius, he accidentally kills Polonius that causes his son, Laertes (MICHAEL MALONEY), to swear revenge upon Hamlet. From that point on, great tragedy falls upon Denmarkís aristocracy as Hamlet enacts his revenge.
Only if theyíre really into Shakespeare or this play. Otherwise, this four-hour production will seem like a school-related nightmare to them.
For some violent images and sexuality.
  • KENNETH BRANAGH plays a man whose plan to revenge his father's death causes more fatalities to follow.
  • DEREK JACOBI plays a man who poisons his brother, weds that man's wife, and plots to kill her son.


    OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
    While few children will want to see this film, itís also highly unlikely that teenagers will want to see it either. Thatís too bad, because itís a very well-made version of the story, despite its four-hour running time. The latest version of "Romeo and Juliet" (Fall 1996) made Shakespeare seem "cool" and stylized, but this film will seem boring and drawn out compared to that film. Of course the former was aimed at teens while this one goes for the adult, art-house crowd. At times the production clicks and yanks you into the scenes and you forget that you really canít understand whatís being said. Other times, however, the old English verbal flow overwhelms your thought processes and youíll struggle to make sense of what theyíre saying on screen. Thatís unfortunate, because as you try to decipher the wonderfully poetic language, you might miss nuances here and there that add to the production. Of course thatís always been the problem with Shakespearean productions. Those whoíve studied the Bard enough times can easily sit through one of the plays or movies while it takes others some time to get acclimated to the subtlety and flow of the dialogue. Readers should note, though, that the plot is easy to follow. It's just the filler scenes and dialogue (of which there is a great deal, particularly coming from the full text version of the play) that will occasionally get lost. Still, the movie never quite feels like four hours (the intermission helps) and the production values and most of the performances are outstanding. Some of the actors, however, are horribly miscast and occasionally throw the movie out of step. The biggest problem (that is thankfully short-lived) is the casting of Jack Lemmon as one of the sentry guards. While Lemmon is a great comedic actor, he just doesnít fit into a Shakespearean production and his presence seems to have pushed his co-actors off balance as the scenes with him just donít work. Robin Williams is a bit easier to handle, and while somewhat funny, still slightly throws the production out of whack. Surprisingly, Billy Crystalís take as one of the grave diggers actually works, although when you first see him, you expect his usual shtick. His performance, however, is pleasantly funny. Humor doesnít come from most of the other characters, but turns by the other actors, notably Branagh and Jacobi, are excellent and may spawn several Oscar nominations. Had this film been a bit shorter, it wouldíve received a higher rating from us, but as it is, we give it a 7.5 out of 10.
    As said above, most kids will probably avoid this film, but there are still a few things to be aware of. There is some violence and one scene with quite a bit of blood on the floor. Hamlet and Ophelia are seen in bed together (having sex) but no sexual movement or nudity is seen although there is some bare skin present. Beyond that, the theme and plot could provoke parent-child discussion. We suggest, as always, that you read the scene listings to determine if this film is appropriate for you and your family.

  • A sentry guard drinks from a flask.
  • Claudius quickly guzzles down drink after drink as he makes his way to Gertrude's bedroom.
  • Claudius and another man drink some sort of liquor.
  • Claudius and Laertes drink some sort of liquor.
  • There are some quick views of blood coming from Hamletís fatherís ear.
  • Hamlet stabs Polonius and a large stream of blood runs down his body. Later, a very large pool of blood lies on the floor next to his body.
  • There is a very quick shot of Ophelia lying dead underwater.
  • Thereís just a nick of blood on both Hamlet and Laertesí shoulders as they duel in a fencing match.
  • A man stabs himself in the stomach with his own knife and a lot of blood flows out and the man later raises his hand and itís very bloody.
  • Obviously, Claudius has both as he kills his brother and then quickly weds his sister-in- law. He then plots with Laertes to have Hamlet killed.
  • A few of the appearances by the ghost of Hamletís father may be a little frightening to younger children.
  • A grave digger unearths many human bones and then lines up several human skulls. Kids who are frightened by such things might not like this scene.
  • Some viewers may find the final fight sequence between Hamlet and Laertes to be somewhat tense.
  • Rapier: Used by Hamlet to stab Polonius to death (not knowing it was him).
  • Foils: Used during a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes.
  • Swords/Knives: Used by soldiers to kill castle guards.
  • Fencing (sword fighting).
  • Another guard suddenly knocks down a sentry guard outside the castle.
  • There is a minor amount of suspenseful music at times during the production.
  • None.
  • 2 "ass" words, 1 damn, and 4 uses of "Oh my God," and 1 use of "God" as exclamations.
  • Hamlet and Ophelia are seen passionately kissing in bed. While theyíre nude and lots of skin is seen, no "private parts" are seen in the quick views of them.
  • There are lines in the play referring to men lying between womenís legs and to "making love" and at another time, Ophelia drops to the floor, spreads her legs and gyrates her hips up and down (after sheís gone crazy over her fatherís death).
  • Claudius and another man smoke (one a cigar, the other a cigarette).
  • A grave digger smokes.
  • Hamlet must deal with his fatherís death and Laertes and Ophelia with their fatherís death. Ophelia then goes crazy and eventually kills herself.
  • That two wrongs donít make a right (in seeking revenge on Claudius, many others end up dead because of Hamlet's actions).
  • Sentry guards throw their spears at the ghost but they end up flying through thin air.
  • Claudius pours poison into his brother's ear and moments later the king is dead.
  • Some sword to shield fighting is seen during an actorís story telling.
  • Hamlet knocks over furniture in anger.
  • Polonius is a bit rough with Ophelia (dragging her along, banging her into walls) as he talks to her.
  • Hamlet sees movement behind a curtain and stabs his rapier through it several times. He then discovers that he has killed Polonius.
  • Claudius slaps Hamlet on the face.
  • Laertes threatens Claudius with his sword after Poloniusí death.
  • Itís reported that Ophelia drowned (herself).
  • Laertes attacks Hamlet at a funeral and has to be pulled off him.
  • As an advancing army attacks the castle, many outside guards are killed and others inside are wounded or killed as the soldiers burst through the windows.
  • There is a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes where a little blood is drawn on both of their shoulders. Hamletís wound, however, is poisoned. The two smash into walls and Laertes ends up falling from a balcony, also with a poisoned foil wound.
  • Gertrude dies after drinking from a poisoned goblet of wine intended for Hamlet.
  • A man stabs himself in the stomach with his own knife.
  • Hamlet throws his foil, spearing Claudius to the wall. He then sends a chandelier crashing into the trapped king.

  • Reviewed January 25, 1997

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