Much Ado About Nothing Directed by: Joss Whedon Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, Jillian Morgese Running Time: 1 hr 47 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: June 21, 2013 (Chicago)
PLOT: A modern re-telling of Shakespeare's famous story about two couples and their problems with love.
WHO'S IT FOR? Whether the incorporation of Whedon's favorite players excites you or not, Shakespeare is Shakespeare. This one may not be a bit groovier than sitting in high school English class again, but the same attitude of attentiveness is still required.
Much Ado About Nothing is a passion project made by a filmmaker who needed to take a breather from working one of the biggest films ever, but at the same time still needs storytelling to breathe. From Avengers director Joss Whedon comes this modern adaptation of William Shakespeare's play, as driven by soft bossanova jazz, light surf pop, and shot in black-and-white. The movie is essentially a party, which, if it wasn't already, might as well have been shot inside Whedon's actual house. Watching this project, one can only imagine what type of other projects Whedon has in his creative hook chest, either incomplete, or saved for just his friends.
Working with a group of familiar faces from his previous canon (from Clark Gregg to Maher to his Bruce Campbell, Nathan Fillion), Much Ado About Nothing is driven by a capable cast who enliven the language of Shakespeare, and for the most part can act with this cherished dialogue as if it were just really good modern line-readings. There are moments of shakiness, certainly, such as when Gregg gets a little flat compared to the likes of Acker or Morgese.
While the movie is certain a project made by Whedon, it is also certainly something geared by him to reach as wide an audience as possible (as wide as a Shakespearean film can reach, nonetheless). Thus, the movie has bits of obvious comic relief, such as when Fillion is brought in to bumble through his sense of authority as Dogberry, in a role that could equally be a favor for Fillion or for Whedon.
Along with humor, Much Ado About Nothing has a nice sensual touch as well, one that maintains its class despite noticeably turning up the heat. This certainly loosens up the movie from any expectations of stuffiness, while also making it one of the classier sexy movies in recent history.
As for the adapted work by the man with the most credits on IMDb, Shakespeare's dialogue still very much holds up in this regard; if anything and this is certainly a stretch, like previous Shakespeare adaptations such as Julie Taymor's The Tempest, it does become an extra chore to keep up with every bit of dialogue in this film. It's not that this movie is confusing, or that it's viewers have to be smarter than average, but it certainly becomes clear that this Whedon movie ain't no Avengers.
Having mentioned Taymor's Tempest, in terms of the Shakespeare attitude, the movie doesn't let its modern desire get in the way of the content. With Great Gatsby having come out recently, this movie also brings to mind the battle when someone adapts a film. Luhrmann's adaptations walk the line of overbearing on the content with his own visual sense, at the same time playing complete respect to the material (either by using the exact same dialogue in Romeo + Juliet, or in keeping much of the same writing from Great Gatsby). However, this version of Shakespeare plays out with a much more natural sense, while still cinematic. The visuals do not impede on its centerpiece lyricism, the everlasting element that inspired this project to be in the first place.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10