Romeo and Juliet isn't any different from the many sappy love stories that have existed in various cultures for centuries. I think Shakespeare's original itself drags a bit, and this movie is no exception. In this modern-day angst-ridden version of the ancient classic, Leonardo DiCaprio is Romeo Montague and Claire Danes is Juliet Capulet; the movie is set in Verona Beach, a fictitious decaying urban location.
The action really starts in fair Verona when Tybalt (John Leguizamo), Juliet's cousin, kills Mercutio (Harold Perrineau), Romeo's friend in drag. Romeo then avenges the death of his comrade by killing Tybalt, and is promptly banished by Captain Prince (Vondie Curtis-Hall). As the story goes, Juliet and Romeo finally come together, under somewhat tragic circumstances.
The most brilliant aspect of the movie is the urban landscape setting, the lighting, and the cinematography. The movie is also funny at times, and Baz Luhrmann's direction is excellent. The acting is mixed: DiCaprio and Danes don't generate any chemistry on the screen, and further, they appear to have fundamental problems managing the Shakespearean dialogue. In fact, I thought many of the performers were unable to deliver the dialogue effectively and convincingly and I think this is the biggest flaw in the movie. It is as if the performers themselves don't understand what they're saying and are just reciting lines from memory.
The best performance is by Perrineau who uses the dialogue in a convincing manner to make the audience laugh and to generate empathy when he is dying. Pete Postlethwaite as Friar Laurence and Miriam Margolyes as Juliet's nurse also pull off fine performances.
The movie is made for the MTV generation and should be a hit with them. It's almost like watching MTV for two hours (except that the movie probably has more music content). It is worth checking out on the big screen however, if only to hear a soul-based performance of Prince's When Doves Cry in a church by a children's choir.