**½/**** Image A- Sound B+ Extras B
starring Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, Julia Stiles, Elden Henson
screenplay by Brad Kaaya, based on the play "Othello" by William Shakespeare
directed by Tim Blake Nelson
by Walter Chaw Tim Blake Nelson's updating of Shakespeare's "Othello" is hamstrung by a deficient script that hastily neglects motivation and character depth in favour of a dependence on our familiarity with the source material to lend O its tragic gravity. It overuses animalism and the specious equation of high school basketball with military conquests and prowess, and unforgivably consigns the Desdemona character to a haughty afterthought and a series of shrill, shallow pronouncements. Another fatal misjudgment of the hackneyed and over-complicated plot (which actually seems to contradict itself right at its conclusion) reduces Iago's wickedness to his need to earn daddy's approval. Admittedly though, O's transplanting of "Othello"'s insular Venetian political setting to an exclusive upper class prep school is a wry and excellent decision, offering any number of opportunities for satirizing the glowering atmosphere and claustrophobic in-fighting of high school at its most advantaged.