'Anonymous' review: But soft, what time this film does waste

RedEye movie critic

*1/2 (out of four)

A fortnight is about how long it will take you to sort out the overstuffed historical conspiracy theory “Anonymous,” an absurdly structured movie that could have benefited from an iron and a volume knob. It’s a drama not for Shakespeare hounds but devoted fans of speeches and yelling, as there’s barely a scene that goes by without a grand, dramatic declaration or some kind of over-acted shouting match!

Perhaps this was director Roland Emmerich’s (“2012,” “Independence Day”) way of compensating for the lack of explosive disaster that’s usually found in his movies. Except “Anonymous” is a thriller that jumps wildly between past and longer-ago past to claim that the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) actually wrote the plays of William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), who was just a lying, horny actor. That’s a big claim, but despite the continuous mentions about taking over Elizabeth’s (Vanessa Redgrave) throne—if these conversations totally lose you, that makes two of us—“Anonymous” never convinces that any of this matters or that it needs to be presented with such booming, humorless melodrama. And the manner in which Shakespeare blackmails the man responsible for his fame doesn’t come close to holding up; would the Earl of Oxford really think that Shakespeare would admit to being a fraud? In more than two long hours, all the movie gets right are the accents and the costumes.

One thing that did interest me, however: Was it once a custom to fight dogs and bears against each other?

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mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

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