Think of it as a fun and visual version of Cliff Notes, except instead of the ugly yellow and black books, we follow an impressive Oscar caliber cast of actors from all ages and all walks of life. To pay homage to Stephen Colbert, in Al Pacino’s Looking for Richard, the veteran Academy Award winning actor investigates the classic play Richard III and seems to state to the audience, “I am Shakespeare and so can you.”
In this superb, inviting and winning documentary that stands as one of the best modern filmed versions of Shakespeare despite the unorthodox and disjointed approach, Al Pacino dons a director’s hat in exploring Shakespeare’s significance around the globe today and tries to tear down the daunting, invisible yet strong wall that people seem put up around them whenever they’re faced with what they perceive to be the elitist and snobbish iambic pentameters and rich wordplay from the Bard that has fascinated theatergoers, scholars, directors, actors and literature lovers for centuries. Confronting stereotypes and ruminating on the subtle rivalry between British Shakespearean actors and their American counterparts, Pacino takes on the role of Richard III as well as playing our likable, intense tour guide (so knowledgeable and witty that he’s like the English professor we wish we would've had) and not only acts out major scenes of the play with a cast that includes the likes of Penelope Allen, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder and Aidan Quinn as well as breaking down everything plot point by plot point but also interviewing talented enthusiasts such as Kenneth Branagh (Mr. Shakespeare, himself!), Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, Rosemary Harris, James Earl Jones and Kevin Kline.
Beginning with “now is the winter of our discontent” and traveling all the way until the anguished cry of “my horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse,” we’re riveted with the fresh approach and breakneck pace. Contagiously enthusiastic, Pacino's passion for the project seems to light a fire under the cast and crew, bringing out their very best and as one crew member jokingly confessed near the end, they didn’t dare tell Pacino about the other ten rolls of film that were available or else he’d want to use it to continue his labor of love that’s become a lovely film for audiences to behold as well. A must-see!