Much Ado About Nothing

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Laura Clifford 
Much Ado About Nothing

Robin Clifford 

After winning a battle against his rebellious illegitimate brother Don John (Sean Maher, Whedon's 'Serenity'), Don Pedro (Reed Diamond, Whedon's 'Dollhouse') stops to visit good friend Leonato (Clark Gregg, "The Avengers"), whose daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese, a "The Avengers" extra), immediately catches the eye of his soldier Claudio (Fran Kranz, Whedon's "The Cabin in the Woods"). With one wedding set, Leonato, Pedro and Claudio set out to trick their friend Benedick (Alexis Denisof, Whedon's 'Angel,' 'Dollhouse') into falling in love with Leonato's niece Beatrice (Amy Acker, Whedon's "The Cabin in the Woods"), as the two's history of witty takedowns is an obvious cover for deep-seated attraction.  But Pedro throws everything into disarray when he tricks Claudio into thinking Hero's seeing another man in "Much Ado About Nothing."

Laura:
When writer/director Joss Whedon (TV's 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer') had a contractual week off before post-production on "The Avengers," he and his producer wife Kai Cole got a group of friends together and made a movie in their own house and the result is one of the most purely enjoyable Shakespearean adaptations since Branaugh's 90's run.  This is a romantic comedy that truly lives up to the genre.

Whedon uses his modern setting and its accoutrements as humorous grace notes to Shakespeare's bon mots, adding classicism by rendering his digitally shot feature in black and white.  When Pedro, Claudio and Benedick first discuss women, establishing their characters, they're in the room given to Claudio and Benedick, a twin bedded little girls' room complete with Barbie playhouse.  The indoor/outdoor costume party which follows that evening featuring two women mirroring moves on a high swing as entertainment is relevant to both eras.  Aviator-glassed bodyguards, tie wraps, surveillance cameras and iPhone video are all canny updates to the plot.  The loose wheeling nature of the production and the obvious fun the cast is having dispel any difficulty in understanding Shakespeare's archaic language - be not afraid!

If you're not a fan of Whedon's television work, you may not recognize most of the cast, but it is a finely chosen one and may provide big screen calling cards for many. Amy Acker is delightful as the cutting Beatrice, her deep pleasure in 'overhearing' Hero and her maid Margaret's (Ashley Johnson, "The Avengers") texted Benedick gossip palpable. The handsome Denisof proves his moves with slapstick so well tuned he causes costar Gregg to briefly (and charmingly) lose character.  Taking the absolute piss out of himself is 'Firefly's' Nathan Fillion as the dimwitted constable, Dogberry, the tale's inadvertent hero.

Bottles of wine and trays of food abound about the house, giving the impression of a week long party both on and off the screen.  The whole feels something like an amateur side project, and yet it is a testament to the professionalism of all involved that such an entertaining film is the result.

B+

Robin:
Robin did not see this film.
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