Much Ado About Nothing
Director: Joss Whedon
Shakespeare’s classic comedy is given a contemporary spin in Joss Whedon’s film, Much Ado About Nothing.
Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese
(film synopsis from sxsw.com)
During a production break on a little movie called The Avengers, director Joss Whedon secretly shot an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in his own backyard in 12 days featuring an all-star cast of Whedon regulars. Great, yet another adaptation of a Shakespeare classic converted to a modern time period. This particular reimagining manages to take a familiar story and make it feel fresh utilizing brilliantly timed physical comedy while still maintaining the inherent humor found in much of the original play.
Once you warm up to the language style, the film really settles into a consistent groove that showcases effective humor and drama. For the most part Whedon keeps much of the original material in tact while adding minor modifications to punch it up a bit. The result comes in the form of wittier and sexier exchanges between the characters in ways you might not see on a stage. Big laughs are punctuated by some pretty intense drama beautifully sold by the, across the board, wonderful performances.
The cast shines in wonderfully dynamic roles despite the short length of the production schedule and the small amount of time they likely had to prepare for wordy, complicated strings of dialogue. Leads Denisof and Acker portray Benedick and Beatrice so confidently and with such charisma that I’d swear they came right off a Broadway stage. Kranz, the hilarious stoner from The Cabin in the Woods, nearly disappears into the role of the hopeless romantic Claudio showing that there’s more to the actor than just playing a fantastically entertaining pothead. The supporting cast is rounded out by fellow Whedon regulars including a couple of cops with great chemistry played by Fillion and Tom Lenk.
If you are familiar with the original story, not much has changed, but I’m not sure that it really needed to. Whedon wisely chooses to experiment with the story visually using black and white cinematography to capture the more jazzy, free flowing style he’s trying to achieve. At the same time it compliments the choice of keeping the dialogue mostly unchanged helping ease the audience into a more timeless realm. Due to the choice of medium here, the actors are given an opportunity to be a bit more animated and sell much of the comedy through visual gags that work more often than not through slick editing and cute blocking.
It takes some time getting used to but if you are patient, Much Ado About Nothing is a rewarding and enjoyable adaptation that could have been easily phoned in and made more conventionally. Instead we get some impressive performances and a brilliant example of keeping the old while embracing something new.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
Tyler Mager currently reviews movies for CollegeMovieReview.com and comics for Gutters and Panels. He’s also an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker based out of Austin, TX. Follow him on twitter @tylermager.