Video Review

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1991)

MPAA Rating: PG
EW's GRADE
C

Details Movie Rated: PG; Genre: Comedy; With: Gary Oldman and Tim Roth; Distributor: Buena Vista Home Video

''Words, words...they're all we have to go on,'' moans Guildenstern (Tim Roth) to Rosencrantz (Gary Oldman) in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard's film version of his famous and fatuous play, a ping-pong of absurdist dialogue by the two ''friends'' brought to Elsinore to spy on Hamlet. By the end of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's not-so-excellent adventure, the viewer feels poisoned and worn out by Stoppard's patrician puns and amusing anachronisms. Who'd have thought brilliance could be so boring?

There are compensations in this pompous exercise, chief among them Richard Dreyfuss as the grandiloquently bad lead actor of the traveling players. Another is the arresting visual quality that Stoppard, who also directed, occasionally brings to the world of ''Hamlet,'' where ''the bad end unhappily and the good end unluckily.'' But the smugness of the material negates these virtues, as well as the two lead performances, in what is essentially Nintendo for intellectual twits. C

Originally posted Aug 23, 1991 Published in issue #80 Aug 23, 1991 Order article reprints