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The Duchess

The Baltimore Sun

[Paramount Home Video] Starring Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes Directed by Saul Dibb. $29.98, Blu-ray $39.99. **


The Duchess, in stores Saturday, may be lovely to look at, but even Keira Knightley's best efforts can't shake up this curiously inert film, the tale of an 18th-century British lass who married into the aristocracy, only to find the marriage doomed her to a life of little more than servitude to her vain, pompous husband.

Knightley, corseted and wigged beyond any reasonable measure, is Georgiana Spencer, who starts off thrilled that she is to be betrothed to the esteemed Duke of Devonshire. But her joy is soon tempered by the realization that all her new husband cares about is getting a male heir. When she gives birth to two daughters, he cavalierly moves on to someone else - but demands she remain loyal.

The filmmakers desperately want to parallel Georgiana's story of a lovely, vibrant woman trapped in a loveless marriage to a bland, self-centered husband, with that of her future relative, Princess Diana (born Diana Spencer). They even have the Duchess referred to by the diminutive "G," much as Diana became known as "Di." Too bad they stack the deck by making everyone except G one-dimensional: The duke (Ralph Fiennes) is a cad; her lover (Dominic Cooper) is a boytoy; her mother (Charlotte Rampling) is a social climber. Even Georgiana spends the film as little more than a victim, evincing little hint of the vibrancy and intellect that apparently made the real duchess the toast of London.

Also out Saturday: : Eagle Eye (DreamWorks Video, $29.98, Blu-ray $39.98): Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan find their lives manipulated by a mysterious phone voice in this paranoid thriller. Even though the woman on the other phone seems to know what is about to happen, neither the characters nor you will have a clue. With Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson as skeptical federal agents.

In stores today: : Japanese cult hero Zatoichi is back in Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman Vol. 5-8 (Image Entertainment, $39.98); the electronically revived undead continue to rule the world in Pulse 3 (The Weinstein Co., $19.98)

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