“Much Ado About Nothing” Sadly An Appropriate Title – See What I Did There? Jun07

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“Much Ado About Nothing” Sadly An Appropriate Title – See What I Did There?

Parties at Joss Whedon’s place must be an absolute pleasure. Intelligent, pretty people bantering about, dressed in finely tailored suits and gowns, drinking fine wine and basking in the serenity (no pun intended) of a glorious evening.

The film Much Ado About Nothing however, based on the classic Shakespeare comedy and shot over a 12 day period at Whedon’s house, is a little more like your friend mangling a report about what a great time he had. You should’ve been there.


There’s been much ado about Whedon modernizing the play and right off the bat we’re shown Benedick leaving Beatrice alone in bed. The implication diverges in an encouraging way but soon we realize that outside of location and costumes, not much else has will be updated.

The characters speak the Bard’s words verbatim (with few exceptions), creating a strange juxtaposition between the modern visual context and the Renaissance sensibility of the source material. The blocking and dialogue exchanges feel more like actors practicing their lines at home before performing them theatrically at a later date.

I wish the film had followed the lead of its opening scene. Outside of for the sake of doing it, I can’t figure out why the decision was made keep the original dialogue, references and themes intact.

The characters presented don’t embody them in an way.


Alexis Denisoff’s Benedick is about as much a war hero as Amy Acker’s Beatrice. Both are amiable enough in their roles, Acker especially. They’re not Branagh and Thompson, but if they were Branagh and Thompson, the same objections would apply. It’s not their fault.

If you’re going to modernize Much Ado About Nothing, why not update it with more than revolvers, swimming pools and automobiles?

It’s not like satirizing patriarchal double standards is more difficult in 2013 than it was 400 years ago. It may not be acceptable to strangle your daughter to death for an affair (in the Western world anyway), but the same hysteria exists.


In the interest of fairness, I should point out that it’s a relatively harmless experience. The black and white is gorgeous, the actors are having a great time, the direction is slick and Nathan Fillion’s hilarious Dogberry is almost worth a recommendation on its own.

I realize that, to many people, this review will come off as little more than me not getting it. That’s fair, but I wanted to like this, I really did. I’m a sucker for directors gathering friends to make passion projects over a weekend or two.

I just wanted Much Ado About Nothing to establish itself as more than a whim.

Rated PG-13 – Limited release in NY, LA and San Francisco.