Branagh again shows his brilliance as the premier Shakespearean adaptation director of our time. He uses an imaginative cast and some dreamily beautiful scenery and music to create a movie that is light hearted, funny and escapist (which is a good thing is these dark times). Denzel is wonderful as the lovingly charming and self-assured Prince Don Pedro. Quite frankly I never suspected he could do Shakespeare so easily and sexily.
Branagh is not quite as good an actor as he is directing, but his witty and quick tempered Benedick has the right contrast of insecurity and aplomb. In my book though, he will never top his portrayal of Henry V. I've always had a huge crush on Emma Thompson and her performance here is nothing short of amazing; direct, passionate (I loved the teary scene after Hero's unwarranted disgrace, funny and wishful. I hardly know Robert Sean Leonard but I thought his naive and boyish portrayal of Claudio was quite appropriate to the role. He didn't steal scenes from Washington or Branagh but I think he was true to the play. Despite what many would say, I was pleasantly surprised by Keanu Reeves as the evil plotting Don John. He definitely looked the roguish part and his delivery is meant to show the limitations of the character (not that of the actor) as Shakespeare wrote the role. My only disappontment was that of Michael Keaton as the Constable Dogberry. I didn't appreciate his attempt at Beetlejuice humor and I thought a Geoffery Rush here would have done much better justice to this humorous and juicy role. Moreover, he kept jumbling his words so I could hardly understand what he was saying. The rest of the supporting cast were quite good especially Kate Beckinsale (Hero). This movie and it's DVD version is a must see classic for all Shakespeare fans.