There have always been retellings of Shakespeare using a modernized lens. Oft these focus on the more famous tragedies, but Joss Whedon (Serenity, The Avengers) has not reworked the original language of Shakespeare in the comedy “Much Ado about Nothing,” starring an assortment of Whedon regulars. “Much Ado About Nothing” is a sincere love letter that tells the story of broken families, that have come together to celebrate the marriage of the youngest members, played by Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese. However, we learn that love and betrayal can walk hand-in-hand when the 2nd Act delves deep into dark comedy territory. Threats of murder and destruction loom when one’s chastity is questioned with words and veiled acts of deception; without these things it wouldn’t be Shakespeare.
Filmed in twelve days at Joss Whedon’s home using the original Shakespearean text, the play follows Morgese as the timid Hero and Kranz as the victorious warrior Claudio. The two young lovers have fallen in love at first sight, while Hero’s cousin, Beatrice (Amy Acker) battles wits and sparing words with a former lover, Benedick (Alexis Denisof). Meanwhile, Don John (Sean Maher) is Claudio’s foil, attempting to ruin Claudio and Hero’s Union.
As with any Shakespearean story we all know we are going to find resolution at the end of “Much Ado About Nothing” and it is no different from the other more famously retold texts. What some audiences may not like about this retelling is that it is in black and white with sparse color, isn’t flashy, and offers a stripped down movie that focuses on the words, allowing the viewer to really focus on the meaning.
Also, those coming to see the Nathan Fillion movie might be disappointed to find that he has a small role as the lovable buffoon policeman Dogberry. What Fillion and all the other actors provide is a well acted and directed discourse from one of the greatest playwrights ever to walk the Earth. Acker and Denisof steal the show and make great use of their surroundings throughout the movie, with both actors willing to use physical comedy as their conduit, while others do the talking.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is a great comedic Shakespearian play directed and acted by fantastic actors with solid performances; it isn’t a life changing movie, but gives you hope for the future.