The best thing, worst thing, and main thing about Joss Whedon’s Shakespearean update to “Much Ado About Nothing” in about the time it takes to watch the trailer.
I’m sorry, was that Joss Whedon’s name I just saw? Yeah, I’m in.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is a shakespearean play remade for the screen this time by Mr. Joss Whedon who made the decision to set the events in modern times while maintaining the original language of the bard. He is joined by many actors from his stable who you might recognize from his other projects like Dollhouse, The Avengers, Angel, and Firefly. The film was shot in black and white and has the feel of a bunch of friends getting together for a couple weeks to have some fun making a movie…. which is exactly what it was.
And that’s a wonderful part about this film. The camaraderie between the players is evident in the chemistry and laughs, which is important considering this play relies heavily on quick wit and screwball humor. In fact, lets just call this cast the best thing about the movie, especially Nathan Fillion whose part easily squeezes the most laughs out of the audience. I also really appreciated the artistic choices that Whedon makes here. The black and white gives it a classical feel even as the time setting appears to be modern day. It makes for a nice balance when the language is so obviously old school. Speaking of which, I do think the actors end up having a bit of difficulty getting the feel for some of these lines.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a few pitch perfect deliveries of the olde English iambic pentameter (I knew high school literature class would come in handy someday) but overall I felt myself digging through their inflection to find the meaning in many of these lines. This difficulty with the “Shakespearese” of the the script is probably my worst thing. If you want proof, simply go back and watch the Kenneth Branagh version of this same film where he and Emma Thompson act Shakespearean circles around anyone in this cast. They simply live in the nuance of the language in a way that was rarely seen in Whedon’s version. I wonder if part of this is due to the disconnect of the modern age with the ancient tongue, or an atmospheric decision to downplay the melodrama, but it just didn’t feel like the passion of the speaking matched the intensity of the word play. None of this takes away from the fact that the source material is exquisite and the cast is having a great time, it just left me feeling a bit underwhelmed in parts.
Overall, Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is a fun diversion. I love the way he used his group of buddies and a keen artistic eye to shoot a hilarious story even if they couldn’t quite master the shakespearese. I give it a very solid B.
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