A Haunting in Venice

A Haunting in Venice ★½

Branagh’s first outing as Poirot in “Murder on the Orient Express” landed solidly in “that was completely okay” territory, but his follow-up, “Death on the Nile” was egregiously slapdash and muddily realized. From a craft perspective, “A Haunting in Venice,” is clearly meant to be a corrective, as this one looks better, or at least more distinctive, than the first two. But it continues a decline in dramatic quality; “Orient” had at least a ring of prestige to it, but each of these sequels seem cheaper and less special than the last. Fond as we may all be of Tina Fey, she’s utterly lost here, and brings an unavoidable made-for-TV halo to the proceedings. The rest of the cast is similarly undistinguished, but really the worst performance in all of these Poirot outings is Branagh himself. He brings a Shakespearean pomposity and self-seriousness to a role that’s meant to be at least thirty percent satirical. This continually throws the rest of the movies off balance, and in this one, which is, to be clear, just dumb as rocks, that sinks the whole affair. I still adore the idea of an ongoing Poirot series, but this one deserves to come to an end.

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