Watch: Much Ado About Nothing

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Article Reviews

Directed by Joss Whedon (Lionsgate, 2013)

After creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dr. Horrible, and successfully directing the latest Avengers films, what’s a director to do for a challenge? In Joss Whedon’s case, the answer is to take on Shakespeare. And so he does with great style in his latest project, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Whedon’s interpretation, true to Shakespeare’s, is a delightful romp across a minefield of romances. Lest we forget (or if we had uninspiring English teachers), Shakespeare is funny. There are many moments in Whedon’s Much Ado that remind us just how much fun the bard can be.

The play centers on the near misses of two couples: Claudio and Hero, and Benedick and Beatrice. Claudio and Hero are a boring, simpering pair. The real fun lies with the latter twosome, whose witty and acidic exchanges have us questioning whether they’re more likely to kill or marry each other.

While it’s hard to beat Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson as Benedick and Beatrice from the 1993 film version, Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker come close in their playful, chemistry-filled performances. Whedon takes great advantage of what film can do in the silent, acrobatic antics of these two actors. In the scenes where Benedick and Beatrice are meant to overhear their friends, Denisof and Acker shine. He clumsily falls over fences, she goose eggs her head under a counter, he crawls across the lawn, she tumbles to the floor dropping a tray. In short, they make Much Ado the screwball comedy it is meant to be.

Mention must be made of Nathan Fillion as the fumbling policeman, Dogberry. His commitment to the ridiculous will have you laughing out loud. Yes, at Shakespeare. What makes this film even more impressive is that it was shot in 12 days at Whedon’s own home, which makes me wish he had an extra 12 days to work with more often.

This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 9, page 42).