Lawrence O'Toole
August 23, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG
performer
Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfuss
director
Tom Stoppard
distributor
Buena Vista Home Video
author
Tom Stoppard
genre
Comedy

We gave it a C

”Words, words…they’re all we have to go on,” moans Guildenstern (Tim Roth) to Rosencrantz (Gary Oldman) in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s film version of his famous and fatuous play, a ping-pong of absurdist dialogue by the two ”friends” brought to Elsinore to spy on Hamlet. By the end of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s not-so-excellent adventure, the viewer feels poisoned and worn out by Stoppard’s patrician puns and amusing anachronisms. Who’d have thought brilliance could be so boring?

There are compensations in this pompous exercise, chief among them Richard Dreyfuss as the grandiloquently bad lead actor of the traveling players. Another is the arresting visual quality that Stoppard, who also directed, occasionally brings to the world of ”Hamlet,” where ”the bad end unhappily and the good end unluckily.” But the smugness of the material negates these virtues, as well as the two lead performances, in what is essentially Nintendo for intellectual twits. C

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