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Much Ado About Nothing (AF)


Stars: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, Tom Lenk

Director: Joss Whedon

For many of us, myself included, Shakespeare recalls memories of schooldays being told the Bard’s works were classics and demanded to be admired as such, an estimable approach that nonetheless more often than not failed to ignite the requisite worship by younger pupils. Similarly, it can be argued Shakespearian films all too often tend to be praised as much for their source material as for the films themselves.

Shakespearian comedies, in particular, have had a hard time being adapted for the cinema. So it’s even more to the credit of writer and director Joss Whedon that he has made a wonderfully witty transition of Much Ado from stage to screen that kept me laughing from start to finish and made me wish I’d had as good a guide to the Bard’s brilliance when I was first forced to study Shakespeare at school. It’s to Whedon’s considerable credit that he has cleverly updated the original to contemporary times, setting the action in and around his palatial home in Santa Monica, but - while cleverly cutting the original - keeping Shakespeare’s original dialogue intact, thus allowing his smart cast to seem absolutely at home speaking their lines. And his use of interiors, in particular, is highly effective.

After a few minutes, I no longer noticed the archaic language but simply laughed and kept on laughing watching lovers Benedick and Beatrice sparring their entertaining way to the expected happy ending with Benedick’s close friend Claudio running interference along the way.

Casting is spot on. Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker hit all the right, often riotous, notes as the sparring lovers engaged in a “merry war between them” and, stealing his every scene, ‘Firefly’ and ‘Castle’ star Nathan Fillion is genuinely hilarious as the enviably incompetent local policeman Dogberry most of whose actions simply catalyse more chaos.

The film, atmospherically shot in black and white by Jay Hunter, took a mere 12 days to shoot which makes the end result all the more impressive. You don’t have to like Shakespeare or even know him (although a quick study of the plot might add to the fun) to have a thoroughly entertaining time.

While some Shakespearian films merely go from Bard to worse, Whedon’s bright and breezy modernised take makes for great fun from beginning to end.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Kaleidoscope Entertainment. Black and White.
198 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 09 Jun 2013