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Alexis Denisoff
Nathan Fillion
Tom Lenk
Clark Gregg
Amy Acker
Fran Kranz
Jillian Morgese
Sean Maher
Reed Diamond.
Joss Whedon.
Joss Whedon.
Running Time
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Much Ado About Nothing
Modern merry warfare

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While young lovers Claudio (Kranz) and Hero (Morgese) plan their wedding, family members trick warring friends Benedick (Denisof) and Beatrice (Acker) into falling for one another. But the course of true love doesn’t run smooth for anyone.

Much Ado About Nothing

It's like a cultural exchange: noted Bard-botherer Kenneth Branagh makes a comic-book movie, geek god Joss Whedon adapts Shakespeare’s sharpest romantic comedy — one Branagh has already tackled, to boot. But just as Ken showed a populist heart with Thor, Whedon’s whipcrack wit proves a perfect fit for this biting love story of romantic conspiracies.

Shot in crisp black-and-white in the director’s own home, this is small-scale, but intimate, not cheap. By casting regular collaborators familiar with the play and each other from Shakespeare readings at his home, Whedon ensures everyone seems comfortable with the language. They’re so breezy and zippy, in fact, that aside from the odd archaic turn of phrase, you could close your eyes and swear this was an episode of Buffy — albeit light on monsters.

Among the cast, Amy Acker’s a perfect Beatrice, smart and foolish in equal proportion and laying a touch of melancholy under her merry war with Benedick. There, Alexis Denisof is broader and more clownish, but takes such a gleeful relish in the text that it’s impossible to dislike him. As Leonato, Clark Gregg once again steals scenes without a word, while Reed Diamond should see his stock rise a few levels thanks to an impish performance as Don Pedro. Jillian Morgese and Fran Kranz’s shining Hero and Claudio, torn apart by the evil machinations of Sean Maher’s Don John, manage to make an impact despite Beatrice and Benedick’s sparkier story, keeping a noir core to offset all the lovey-dovey stuff.

It’s in balancing these competing elements and characters that this version really shines. While Branagh’s adaptation was ravishingly sun-soaked and drunk on its own loveliness (arguably luvviness), this one is steelier — even as it’s leavened with comic buffoonery from Nathan Fillion’s ridiculous Dogberry. By giving everyone a moment to shine, Whedon creates a Shakespearean Scooby gang of fully-rounded individuals and a fizzily fresh take on this story of love, lies and love-sparked-by-lies.

It will require no conspiring to make you fall for this one; Whedon and Shakespeare are a perfect match.

Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Average user rating for Much Ado About Nothing
Empire Star Rating

RE: Joss and William sitting in a tree

It has no importance that Whedon made a big box office hit. 'Money' box office results are inflated and not historically comparable. Birth of a Nationobably was the most successful film in history in terms of total gross divided by average (persoanl) incomes. It is approaching its centenary (in early 2015), and still being shown from time to time in those cinemas insightful and courageous enough to show it. The chance that any of Joss Whedon's films will still be being shown in the 22nd century... More

Posted by cinemike at 14:59, 12 October 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Joss and William sitting in a tree

Saw this yesterday. Well worth the effort to find a cinema showing it. Excellent stuff from Joss Whedon and of course, the script is pretty good! ... More

Posted by GCH at 17:06, 27 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Joss and William sitting in a tree

I've never seen Branagh's take on this Shakespearean play but I'm very interested in seeing this one. Just need to find a cinema that is willing to play it on a day I'm not somewhat busy. ... More

Posted by OPEN YOUR EYES at 12:03, 19 June 2013 | Report This Post

Joss and William sitting in a tree

How do you follow the most successful film of 2012 which became the third-highest grossing film of all time? Following the principal photography of the Marvel superhero epic The Avengers, TV extraordinaire Joss Whedon decide to spent his short vacation by shooting (in twelve days), a black-and-white indie rom-com based on William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Formally a pair of lovers Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker), are engaged in a very "merry war" as they are ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 20:47, 14 June 2013 | Report This Post

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