But Branagh’s success with Shakespeare is down to two things: his own wonderful way with the words, and his visual panache as a director. Sadly, As You Like It is bereft of both.
Set in Japan, budgetary limitations led to its filming in Sussex. And it shows. Playing out like a peripatetic garden play, it's too reminiscent of a grey-day walk in the woods. Not, as Branagh had hoped, evocative of Japan's lush greenery.
And with Branagh behind the camera and not in front, As You Like It is flatter still. At their best, Ken's Shakespeare films fizz and exhilarate like quality champagne. Unfortunately, As You Like It - like day-old pop - fails to tickle the palate.
Bryce Dallas Howard is refreshingly winsome and wild as Rosalind. Alfred Molina almost saves the day as the clownish Touchstone. Branagh regulars Richard Briers, the ever-enjoyable Adrian Lester and a brace of Brian Blesseds give solid performances. But Kevin Kline is too understated to make any impact as the melancholy Jacques. Even the light-touch frivolity and quirky shooting, typical of Branagh's style, fail to appear.
As You Like It was a brave choice but the samurai trappings - which should have worked - lack the visual sparkle and allure Branagh intended. Only a quirky end-piece, similar to the back-stage kick-off of Henry V, enlivens things with a cheeky bravado - but by then it's too late. And As You Like It fades from the memory before the credits roll. Even Patrick Doyle's score lacks the stirring scale of his better Branagh soundtracks.
Which is to say - give Branagh a bigger budget, get him to speak the words, and he'll fill the screen with verbal and visual fireworks, with drama, comedy and romance. To do otherwise is nothing short of a tragedy.