Time Out says

ITALIAN STALLION Ledger loves the ladies.

Lasse Hallstrm's light farce about the legendary lover lacks the wicked wit that makes a historical romp sparkle, but his feisty supporting cast supplies some much-needed effervescence. In 1753, rakish ladies' man Casanova (Ledger), whose exploits are already the stuff of satirical puppet shows and naughty plays, enjoys the protection of the Doge of Venice, who keeps him out of the hands of the Inquisition. But after a particularly brazen incident at a nunnery, the Doge orders Casanova to make a choice: Maintain the appearance of decorum by entering into a respectable marriage or leave Venice forever.

Casanova sets his practical sights on a well-bred virgin, but is simultaneously smitten with the only woman in Italy who wants no part of him, the bold Francesca (Miller), known for outdueling and outdebating most men. Freethinking Francesca pseudonymously pens scandalous books about women's rights while preparing to sacrifice herself on the altar of her family's financial security by marrying a wealthy Genovese lard merchant (Platt) she's never met. The stage is set for a Taming of the Shrew--style romance played out against the backdrop of romantic intrigues and mistaken identities, but Ledger and Miller lack the chemistry necessary to make the love-hate dynamic sizzle; Miller is so vapid she hardly needs taming. Fortunately, Lena Olin as Francesca's practical but still-sexy mother, Jeremy Irons as the Pope's puritanical enforcer and Platt are there to brighten every scene in which they appear.—Maitland McDonagh

(Opens Sun 25; see Now playing for venues.)



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