Joss Whedon has taken off his brown coat and hung up his superhero costume for the time being to give us a laugh-out-loud and fresh telling of Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. With an amazing cast, comedy at every turn and an excellent eye for direction, Whedon pulls off this amazing tale with grace and fun. The movie’s also different enough to stand on its own apart from Kenneth Branagh’s version from twenty years ago. I imagine that fans of ‘Firefly’, ‘Buffy’ and ‘The Avengers’ will be first in line to support their hero, but I also expect this to gain a bigger following in the weeks to come.
Whedon has set this classic comedic tale in the present day while still using Shakespeare’s original language – similar to Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’. It’s great to see these historic characters live in the present with mobile technology, fancy cars and fun parties as this account of engineered love comes to fruition in a light-hearted and comedic light.
Alexis Denisof (from ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’) plays the fumbling and charming bachelor Benedick, whose friends tell him that Beatrice (Amy Acker, also from ‘Angel’), his friend with whom he spends a lot of time joking around, is actually deeply in love with him. The same is told to Beatrice separately, which leads the two characters to spy on one another in hopes of hearing the other confessing his or her love. This is all done in a slapstick manner that works on every level as the characters provide a bit of physical comedy in their quests.
Claudio (Fran Kranz, ‘Dollhouse’) tries to impress the love of his life, Hero (Jillian Morgese, a bit player in ‘The Avengers’), which brings about a few funny moments as well. Meanwhile, the villain Don John (Sean Maher, ‘Firefly’) plans to sabotage both relationships for his own enjoyment. He’s not the smartest man, but he’s very aware of what’s happening around him, and Maher pulls off this character perfectly. Some of the biggest crowd reactions will come from Nathan Fillion (‘Firefly’) as Constable Dogberry. He and his idiotic deputies make mistakes and provide a treasure trove of physical comedy every time they appear on screen. Seeing Clark Gregg (‘The Avengers’) come down from his Agent Coulson role to play the fun part of Leonato getting drunk and dancing the night away is not something to be missed either.
Whedon is a master with the camera, and this is actually one of his best photographed films. The angles and creative shots he uses all make sense to the story and are used for a precise purpose. It’s a magical experience and I’d definitely love to see Whedon tackle other Shakespeare works. For someone who just made a $1 billion dollar superhero epic to follow that up with this artsy black-and-white movie based on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved creations shows just how much range Whedon has and how successful he is as a storyteller and filmmaker.
Not only will this version of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ make you laugh and have a hugely entertaining time, it’s also true to the original work. With amazing acting, a killer cast and stellar direction, this little gem is highly recommended.