Associated Press reviewer Jake Coyle wrote that "moviegoers will likely have few better options this summer for a good romantic comedy".  A. O. Scott of The New York Times called it "the liveliest and most purely delightful movie I have seen so far this year", concluding to laud the film for its "sly, robust eroticism".  Andrew O'Hehir of Salon wrote, "[It] possesses that Whedon-esque nerdy energy, fizzing with humor, eroticism, booze and more than a hint of danger".  Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times thought the film was "good-humored and unpretentious in equal measure", going on to praise its visual performance.  IGN gave it a out of 10, noting that "everyone should see this movie".  Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal gave high encomium to Kranz 's performance, expressing that the actor "portrays Claudio with affecting passion", and says of the film, "The joyous spirit of the play has been preserved in this modest, homegrown production".  Rolling Stone journalist Peter Travers wrote that the film was "an irresistible blend of mirth and malice".  Justin Chang of Variety sensed that the black-and-white evoked a "timeless romanticism", which was additionally enhanced by the "lightly applied score".  The Daily Mail ' s Chris Tookey said that the film was "the first five-star movie of the summer".  Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly —despite commending it for being "both daring and delightfully daffy"—admits, "The film isn't as fast and funny as it could be". 
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it three out of four stars, calling it "cheerful from beginning to end."  Vincent Canby of The New York Times also wrote the film a positive review, praising Branagh's direction and calling it "ravishing entertainment."  Desson Thomson of The Washington Post praised Branagh's cuts to the text as giving "wonderful import to this silliness from long ago" and stated that "Kenneth Branagh has, once again, blown away the forbidding academic dust and found a funny retro-essence for the '90s."  Online critic James Berardinelli gave the film a glowing four-star review, calling it a "gem of a movie", especially praising the accessibility of the humor, the performances, and Branagh's lively direction, of which he wrote, "This film cements Branagh's status as a great director of Shakespeare, and perhaps of film in general, as well."