Much Ado About Nothing review

This new adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy-drama from Whedon could've been an exercise in gross self-indulgence. After all, it was filmed in black and white in his own LA home, employing numerous actors from his TV shows. They surely had a great time together making this ad hoc modern-day version of the perennially popular play, but does it translate for us cinemagoers?  

Thankfully, it does. The text has been cut down and the able actors have made it clear and easy for us to understand. They work well in sync with each other, and hearing the Shakespearian dialogue in an American idiom is most agreeable. These performers are relaxed and intimate – there's no stuffy formalism and theatricality that one might encounter with English thesps. Whedon's cast go for the poetry and succeed most successfully in delineating the text and making it palatable for common ears.

Denisof is a confidently erudite Benedik, gleefully at odds with Acker as headstrong Beatrice. They get the laughs in their conniving against each other as they mask their true feelings. Kranz is awfully good as naive Claudio, betrothed to virginal Hero (Morgese), his youthful arrogance strongly apparent when his pride is hurt by the ruse concocted about his paramour by scheming Don John (Maher). Diamond is a strongly authoritative Don Pedro, foolishly gullible towards his evil brother's wrongdoing, while Gregg is a convincingly caring patriarch as Leonato, Hero's father. Only Morgese lets the side down as the young bride-to-be. She is simply too inexperienced to be handling the Bard's cadences. But all praise to Fillion in the thankless role of Dogberry. Portrayed here as a dumb, overweight cop, he achieves the impossible and actually makes the character funny. A truly remarkable feat. 

However, in going for the poetry of the piece, urgency and pace is surrendered. It feels like these characters live in a quasi-dream world in this modern setting, and one does not get a sense of excitement. They play off each other well, but there is no real bite to the proceedings. They don't tear into each other with enough exuberance to make this properly compelling. Whedon's movie is an interesting experiment to be sure, and he pulls it off commendably on the whole, but it's a chamber piece that fails to send you out soaring. Plaudits to all though for the bare faced audacity in attempting it.

Much Ado About Nothing at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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