Hermia (Anna Friel) and Lysander (Dominic West) run away into the forest to escape Hermia’s father Egeus (Bernard Hill) who demands that Hermia marries Demetrius (Christian Bale). Demetrius pursues Hermia, followed by Helena (Calista Flockhart), who adores Demetrius. The foursome find themselves near the secret home of the fairies, where fairy trickster Puck (Stanley Tucci) administers a secret love potion, causing the lovers to mix and match with outrageous results. Meanwhile a band of actors rehearsing a play in the woods are interrupted when its star actor Bottom (Kevin Kline) becomes a pawn in the love battles between Oberon (Rupert Everett), King of the Fairies, and Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer), his Queen.
 

3
Beautifully designed and shot, this Dream is best when it`s being funny.

A Midsummer Night`s Dream isn`t, perhaps, one of Shakespeare`s best plays but it does provide its actors with some very choice comedy roles. In the most famous screen adaptation, made by the legendary German stage director Max Reinhardt (in association with William Dieterle) in the mid-30s at Warners, James Cagney was a memorable Bottom and Mickey Rooney a perhaps less memorable Puck.

In Michael Hoffman`s new version, which has been updated to 19th Century Tuscany, it`s again the comedy elements that work best, and when Kevin Kline is on screen, playing a hopelessly self-centered Bottom - an amateur actor of limited talent but vaunting ambition - there`s plenty of fun to be had... Other memorable characters in Hoffman`s film are Stanley Tucci`s wise, playful Puck, Rupert Everett`s noble fairy king, Michelle Pfeiffer, quite lovely as his queen, and David Strathairn as a more substantial than usual Duke.

But the young lovers are, as always, not so interesting, and things bog down when their not very gripping romances are unfolding. The gimmick that has most of the cast riding bicycles soon gets a bit irritating, as is the structure of the piece - which has the romances resolved before the big comedy scene of the staging of the play for the Duke. Beautifully designed and shot, this Dream is best when it`s being funny.