on December 25, 2005 by Jordan Reed
Quick, somebody call Disney to see if they can change the title of their film to "Crapanova." Based -- just how loosely one can only imagine -- on the legendary womanizer from the 18th century, Lasse Hallstrom's lame romantic comedy finds the title lover (Heath Ledger) in danger of being expelled from Venice after his sexual exploits draw unwanted attention from the Catholic church. Immediately after finding a pleasing virgin to wed to clean up his image, however, Casanova becomes bewitched by the independent-minded Francesca (Sienna Miller), herself unhappily arranged to marry the wealthy, rotund pork dealer Paprizzio (Oliver Platt, in what is hopefully a fat suit). While attempting to win Francesca's heart, Casanova must simultaneously avoid Bishop Pucci (Jeremy Irons), the puritanical Vatican heavy -- topped in a quite unflattering mullet wig -- assigned to take him down.

Full of weak whimsy, woefully unsuccessful tries at humor and awkwardness from first scene to last, "Casanova" must have been a disaster from the script stage, and Hallstrom's unsteady decisions only speed up the free fall. Viewers are forced to endure, among other travesties, sickeningly cute cuts to a pig, remarkably clich├ęd priggishness from an old, put-upon butler, and a balloon ride above a fireworks-popping Venice with special effects evoking a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" selection. The screenwriters and director make the shoddiest of attempts to invest in character, including a truly feeble go at a mother-son plot that partially explains Casanova's attitude and need to stay in Venice at all costs. Could this have been helmed by the same man who brought us "My Life as a Dog" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape"? What a difference a decade can make. Starring Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller and Jeremy Irons. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Written by Kimberly Simi and Jeffrey Hatcher. Produced by Mark Gordon, Betsy Beers and Leslie Holleran. A Buena Vista release. Romantic comedy. Rated R for some sexual content. Running time: 110 min

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