By Ty Burr
June 28, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Ang Lee’s film of the Jane Austen novel Sense and Sensibility slavishly follows the gospel according to Merchant Ivory, swooning over characters declaiming modestly while surrounded by topiary. But video cruelly undercuts Sense‘s decorative delights — the costumes, sets, and estates — and reveals the movie to be an ordinary, if pleasant, hoopskirt saga. Emma Thompson (who won an Oscar for her screenplay) is fetchingly sane as the more sober of two sisters trying to make matches in 19th-century England, and Kate Winslet is amusingly adolescent as her headstrong sibling. The male casting is off, though: Hugh Grant seems too nerdy to end up with Thompson and Alan Rickman too romantic to find happiness with dippy Winslet. You keep waiting for them to switch sisters. B

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