Much Ado About Nothing: No, Much Ado About Something—Movie

Confession: While I am an admirer of Shakespeare, I am a huge fan of Joss Whedon. I absolutely love what Whedon has done with Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Although filmed on a shoestring in black and white in his own backyard (and what a backyard this is), Whedon’s film feels every bit as rich as Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 extravaganza.Much ado

“Much Ado” may be one of Shakespeare’s most accessible plays. The plot is fairly simple. Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) are in love with one another…good thing, because they are too prickly to be good for anyone else. However, both are too proud to admit their attraction until friends and families conspire to bring them to their senses. But there is a roadblock to their happiness—Benedick’s friend, Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Beatrice’s niece, Hero (Jillian Morgese). They are about to be married until Hero’s virginity comes into question. Watching these events unfold, one has to remember that Shakespeare wrote this play in the late 1500s and even though this movie is filmed in the present day, we are in a 1500s mindset. Got it? So one does have to stifle the urge to run up to the screen and slap Claudio. In any event hilarity and romance ensue.

While not a big-name cast, “Much Ado” features actors from Whedon’s television shows, and these actors have come in full Shakespearean mode.  Alex Denisof is terrific as the full-of-himself Benedick, showing true slapstick chops never witnessed in “Buffy” or “Angel.” Amy Acker’s too smart for her own good, Beatrice, is divine, and Acker displays a real flair for comedy. Together, she and Denisof make sparks fly. Although played for laughs, as he should be, Nathan Fillion is terrific as Dogberry, careful not to go over the buffoonery top. In addition to Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese, Reed Diamond and Clark Gregg turn in great supporting performances.

Filming in black and white really does justice to “Much Ado’s” darker moments, lending a Hitchcockian tone to some of the sinister plotting. An added bonus to the movie is the setting to music of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Whedon meshes these beautifully into the film.

Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing”  proves that sometimes less is really just right. Even Shakespeare would approve.

4 nuggets out of 4

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