Much Ado About Nothing (2013)
“This whole love-drunk affair is damned near impossible to resist.”
GRADE: 4/5 (B+)
by Richard Rey
Joss Whedon’s most recent contribution to cinema comes in the form of a different hero – namely the wordy Bard himself. Shot during a twelve day period at his home in Santa Monica, CA, Much Ado About Nothing is a collaborative labor of love born in the midst of the shooting of the blockbuster hit The Avengers. This black-and-white modernized comedy of errors is more a testament to the director’s profound love of cinema than it is groundbreaking Shakespearean work. The bare boned side project offers barrels of laughs, electric performances from its lead and supporting characters and is lighthearted and fun enough to draw the likes of both adults and teenagers in search of a less educational, more entertaining translation of Shakespeare on the silver screen. Indeed, what begins as a daunting task of adjusting the ear to the rhythms of the world’s greatest poet quickly turns into a hilarious game of gags and guffaws where the actors’ (Whedon’s friends from show and film past, think Buffy, Firefly, Angel, and even Avengers) draw-and-sheathe use of the language is done with such precision and technique that it makes the whole love-drunk affair damned near impossible to resist.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) have just returned victorious from battle to Messina where the governor, Leonato (Clark Gregg), welcomes them to stay for a month. Love struck, Claudio seeks the governor’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick swears he will never marry. Meanwhile Beatrice (Amy Acker), Leonato’s niece, finds Benedick to be repulsive and contemptible, noting his incompetence as a soldier. When each realizes the saucy pride of the other, love becomes a game of words, tricks and quips and is bound to take hold of the merry hearts of all drunken parties involved. This winning adaptation of the four-hundred year old play is a cocktail party you won’t want to miss – replete with hilarious clowning and back and forth gags that give the pic a much needed lift in action to match its prolific language.
It may be said that this American take on Sir William Shakespeare is overly jokey, too literal, and will never match the venerable Kenneth Branaugh’s 1993 film adaptation. To this I respond with the sticking out of my tongue, a couple of cartwheels and the downing of two martinis before falling on the floor in a drunken stupor. Lighten up, Shakespeare hasn’t been this funny in years, and may not be for many more to come! Sure, it’ll piss off the Royal Shakespeare Company, but just remember, Daniel Day-Lewis abandoned that group of squawking old roosters for a career in Hollywood. Just saying…
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and brief drug use
Runtime: 107 min
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Director: Joss Whedon
Writer: William Shakespeare, Joss Whedon (screenplay)
Starring: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz
Theatrical Release: June 21, 2013 (limited)
Distributor: Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions