Much Ado about Nothing

Movie Review #636

Click here for the audio review.

much_ado_about_nothing_ver2Studio: Bellwether Pictures
Distributor: Lionsgate – Roadside Attractions
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Joss Whedon. Produced by Joss Whedon and Daniel Kaminsky. Written for the screen by Joss Whedon. Based on the play “Much Ado about Nothing” by William Shakespeare.

Rated PG-13, for some sexuality and brief drug use. Runs 1 hour, 49 minutes. Premiered at Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2012; at Wisconsin Film Festival on April 18, 2013; at San Francisco Film Festival on April 27, 2013; and at Seattle International Film Festival on May 16, 2013. Limited release in the USA on June 7, 2013.

Starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, and Jillian Morgese.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

Note: I attempted to write this review in iambic pentameter. I was almost through line 10 when I decided to rip the paper into four pieces.

I’ve read two Shakespearean plays, and neither one was my choice. If I can help it, I will never read Much Ado about Nothing. But that’s Shakespeare’s fault. It certainly isn’t that of Joss Whedon, the director of this reimagination. Whedon has given me a new perspective of Shakespeare. He’s the god of fanboyism, with credits like Angel, Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse, “The Avengers”, “The Cabin in the Woods”, and a three-part web series called Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (which I’d highly recommend). It doesn’t surprise me that Whedon would do Shakespeare on top of that.

“Much Ado about Nothing” is a decent modern retelling. It’s flawed by the many characters; try keeping up with their names and their relations to each other. It’s like watching a muddled soap opera, which is saved by the cast, as is much of the movie. Amy Acker is perfect as Beatrice, as is Riki Lindhome as the (now female) Conrade. My biggest surprise was seeing Fran Kranz in a role that does not offer him marijuana (whatever happened to the guy who was too stoned to stand in “The Cabin in the Woods”?).

The movie is meant for Shakespeare’s fans. I honestly can’t imagine my watching “Much Ado about Nothing” more than once or twice, but a Shakespeare fan might react differently. The movie is definitely in love with the Bard, but once you get past the archaic dialogue (not that it’s really in the way), “Much Ado about Nothing” is truly Joss Whedon’s film. We laugh at his quirkiness more than Shakespeare’s earthquake of malapropisms. It’s a lot more than we expect for a film billed with, “Shakespeare knew how to throw a party.”

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  1. I am a fan of Shakespeare. Big one. I am not a fan Much Ado, however. At all. Might be my least favorite play.

    Nor am I a terribly big fan of this movie. It’s fine and fun-ish … Considering its source material. So I guess I don’t really disagree with you.

    But I think the adaptation loses the play’s themes, largely because they’re so dated, and also renders the plot completely nonsensical by changing the era in which the play is staged. See my review for a more detailed explanation of that thought.

    Either way, I think I scored this a C+ (barely above average).

  2. I agree that Amy Acker and Fran Kranz do a good job with their parts and I enjoyed Whedon’s take on the source material. I’m not a huge fan of the bard, but this movie made it more enjoyable. Good review

  3. I’ve read a lot of Shakespeare plays, but most of them were in the ’90s in high school. So I wouldn’t call myself an expert. Still, I found a lot to like with this version of Much Ado About Nothing. I loved the black-and-white cinematography and the way they used Whedon’s house. The actors also had a lot of fun with their roles. Amy Acker is the highlight, and Nathan Fillion is fun in a smaller part.

    All of that said, I can’t really argue too strongly with your take, especially if you’re not a Shakespeare fan.




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