Triumphantly emblazoned on the screen for the first time since 1959, the Ealing Studios label has been revived for its second adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play The Importance Of Being Earnest, an appropriate bridge between the studio's past and present. In Anthony Asquith's 1952 classic, Wilde's brittle wit found a perfect home at Ealing, which had built a sterling reputation on dry, cutting social comedies like Kind Hearts And Coronets, Whiskey Galore!, and The Lavender Hill Mob. But the new version runs up against the less storied tradition of the Miramax costume drama, which opens the play to frilly, distracting widescreen décor and softens some of its bite to make the romance seem more palatable. Wilde ultimately emerges victorious from the clashing sensibilities, thanks to a well-chosen cast that includes Rupert Everett and Judi Dench, who seem to slosh the best lines around in their mouths before spitting them out. Everett, who previously collaborated with director Oliver Parker on Wilde's An Ideal Husband, never looks more comfortable than when he's playing a handsome scoundrel, and his wicked barbs keep the film from drifting too far into melodrama. As his sparring partner, a rich dandy who goes by Jack in the country and Ernest in the city, Colin Firth isn't nearly as oily and fun, and he's saddled with a romantic interest that keeps his brow furrowed far too often. Set in late-19th-century England, the beautifully constructed story turns on a baffling array of mistaken identities, as Everett and Firth fall in love with different women under the same pseudonym ("Ernest"). The madness reaches its peak at Firth's country manor, where he pursues Frances O'Connor over the objections of her haughty mother (Dench), while Everett eyes sharp-tongued debutante Reese Witherspoon. Too afraid of creaky floorboards, Parker overcompensates for Earnest's stage origins by expanding the play to as many garish locales as possible–he even has Everett fly to the manor via hot-air balloon–;which intrudes on the running dialogue between the two leads. A brilliant scene in which Dench coolly castigates Firth about his humble past ("Losing a parent is tragic; losing both parents seems like carelessness") hints at the pointed class underpinnings of Wilde's play. But the film seems content with the more modest ambitions of a romantic comedy, albeit one with unusually potent wit and intricate construction. The old Ealing could never have afforded Parker's deluxe treatment of the material; the new Ealing seems to have forgotten the benefits of economy.