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Review: 'Casanova' amusing romp

You'll enjoy the movie -- then it will vanish from your mind

By Paul Clinton
For CNN.com

Casanova
Sienna Miller and Heath Ledger share a romantic moment in the entertaining "Casanova."

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'Casanova'

Starring: Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Lena Olin, Oliver Platt, Jeremy Irons

Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom

Written by: Jeffrey Hatcher and Kimberly Simi

Studio: Touchstone

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Review
Lasse Hallstrom
Heath Ledger

(CNN) -- Heaving breasts. Heavy breathing. Daring rooftop chases. Rampant bed-hopping (lots of bed-hopping). A bit of swordplay. Stolen identities.

That's "Casanova." It's like cotton candy, sweet and tasty and instantly forgettable.

The farcical tale is loosely based (very loosely based) on the life of the legendary ladies' man Giacomo Casanova, gleefully portrayed by Heath Ledger. Set in 1700s Venice, and lushly shot by director of photography Oliver Stapleton, this film by Lasse Hallstrom ("Chocolat," "My Life as a Dog") takes a modernistic approach to an old story.

With an Inquisition in full swing, Casanova has been charged with being a heretic, with the only person standing between him and a noose is the ruler of Venice, the doge (Tim McInnerny), who has a soft spot for the infamous lover who never met a skirt he didn't try to lift.

But the Doge's protection is wearing thin and he orders Casanova to get married in order to obtain at least the veneer of respectability. Along with his bumbling -- and intensely loyal -- right-hand man, Lupo (Omid Djalili), Casanova chooses the virginal Victoria (Natalie Dormer), who is more than happy to be the one woman who finally snags the notorious womanizer.

But just when his problems seem to be solved, he falls in love with Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller), a feminist hundreds of years before her time, who -- although she has never seen him -- despises Casanova based just on his questionable reputation.

Lustful musical chairs

That's not the only hurdle Casanova has to overcome. Francesca's mother Andrea (Lena Olin), for financial reasons, has arranged a marriage for her daughter to rotund merchant Papprizzio (Oliver Platt), who is "the king of lard" in more ways than one.

And then there's the bishop (Jeremy Irons) who's still pursuing Casanova, even as Casanova changes identities faster than his lovers' bed sheets.

Using numerous personas -- both real and fictional -- Casanova tries to win the love of Francesca before she becomes aware of his true identity. But she harbors many secrets of her own.

At this point the story becomes a game of lustful musical chairs. Suffice it to say that no one ends up with the person they wanted (or to whom they were intended), and it all goes dashing by at a lightning pace.

Much of the plot is painfully obvious, but the good-natured screenplay by Kimberly Simi and Jeffrey Hatcher -- along the light-hearted performances by all involved -- make "Casanova" a delightful distraction that is worth seeing. The beauty of Venice doesn't hurt, either (and cinematographer Stapleton brings out the city's best).

Is it Oscar bait? Not in the least. But it's a great date flick and perfect for a time full of all those "serious" films.

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