Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, starring Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Oliver Platt, Omid Djalili and Lena Olin.

Nothing ruins a good film more than some fact-obsessed know-it-all heaping derision on the whole undertaking because they have spotted some minor historical inaccuracy.

'Casanova', though, is not a good film and it is quite galling when it claims to be based 'partially' in truth. The only part of the film that is even remotely true is that there was once a character called Giovanni Giacomo Casanova. But the story has stripped away most of the genuinely interesting aspects of Casanova's character, replaced him with a one-dimensional caricature and spun a tedious piece of complete fiction about how he met his match and fell in love and the hilarity in between.

Except the film is short on hilarity. It is not that there are so few successful jokes, but that there are so few jokes at all: a smattering of fat-gags, some stabs at the Catholic Inquisition, and a handful of lame sexual innuendos constitute the entirety of the attempts to make the audience laugh. And the wit in the Punch-and-Judy shows that punctuate the film is more sophisticated than some of the attempted laughs in 'Casanova'.

Even more frustrating is that when the film's set-up is finally revealed it turns out to be quite a good idea. A cash-strapped Casanova (Ledger) rents his apartment to Paprizzio (Platt), who is the fiancé of Francesca Bruni (Miller). To Paprizzio, Casanova pretends to be a feminist writer called Guardi, which is actually the nom de plume of Bruni. To Bruni, who has never met her betrothed, Casanova pretends to be Paprizzio, who at the same time is undergoing a beautifying treatment back at Casanova's apartment. And all the while Bishop Pucci (Irons) stalks Venice searching for Casanova. What could have been an entertaining story of mistaken identity turns out to be a rushed add-on to a tedious romance.

The problem is that a whole hour is spent wandering aimlessly while relying far too much on Heath Ledger's grinning charm to carry the film. When the story finally starts in earnest, there are only 30 minutes in which to tell it, and the whole thing is resolved far too quickly, robbing the viewer of even more potential laughs.

Ledger is good as Casanova. He's a handsome, rakish type, and never looks out of place tip-toeing across Venetian rooftops carrying his hastily-gathered clothes. But he never seems to get out of first gear. The one-liners he delivered so well in 'A Knight's Tale' are not as abundant in 'Casanova'. Meanwhile Miller is forgettable as Bruni, a victim of a script devoid of jokes. Platt and Irons are the best things in the film; Platt is always entertaining as the obese lard-merchant, and Irons is magnificently evil as the heresy-obsessed bishop. Though none of the actors give a bad performance, no performance could have saved this film from mediocrity.

While you won't be clamouring for your money back as soon as the credits roll, you might just be wishing you had rented 'A Knight's Tale' and stayed at home. 

Barry J Whyte