Unreal Movie Review: Much Ado About Nothing


Chances are when you’ve just finished directing one of the most expansive blockbusters in the history of film, you’re going to want your next project to be something of a vacation. And so what was Joss Whedon’s answer to directing the Avengers? Why, that would be making a Shakespeare adaptation, starring his friends, and filmed at his own house over the course of two weeks. If that’s not a relaxing moviemaking experience, I don’t know what is.

Of course, a low budget movie attempting to modernize Shakespeare starring people who got their jobs due to nepotism could turn out to be a disaster. But as this is Joss Whedon we’re talking about, of course that isn’t the case.

It turns out that his adaptation of Shakespeare’s much ado about nothing is one of the better versions of the famed author’s works that’s we’ve seen on screen. And lord knows there are plenty to choose from, as even The Lion King is Hamlet with animals.


The movie is shot Romeo + Juliet style, taking Shakespeare’s dialog and bringing it into modern day without changing much of the diction at all. The effect can be jarring for those among us who aren’t well-read English majors, and you have to hang on every word to grasp what’s going on and being said, and it can be easy to get lost.

Eventually most should get the hang of it, and Whedon’s translation of Shakespeare becomes more or less completely understandable, but more importantly, as funny as it was the author’s own audience back when it was written centuries ago.

For those of you who need a Spark Notes recap of the general plot, I’ll try to oblige. Whedon’s house doubles as the estate of Leonato (Clark Gregg), governor of Messina. With him lives his daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese) attended by her friend Beatrice (Amy Acker). Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), Prince of Aragon,  is in town to visit the governor, and he brings with him his bastard brother Don John (Sean Maher), his friend Count Claudio (Fran Kranz) and his companion Benedick (Alexis Denisof).


Beatrice and Benedick have long been rivals, mocking each other with nearly every word that comes out their mouths, full of Shakespearian wit and wordplay, as is the entire script. Claudio falls hard for Hero, and after some quick proxy woo-ing by Don Pedro, a wedding is set. This greatly upsets Don John, who schemes to throw a wrench into the works by lying to shame Hero, causing Claudio to cast her aside.

Chances are if you’re a Whedon fan, you recognize a large number of the names in the above paragraphs. These are his compatriots from nearly all of his past TV work, from Buffy to Angel to Firefly to Dollhouse.  Many of these actors we haven’t seen in all that much since their most famous roles, and it’s lovely to get them all together for a party.

And the performances? They’re incredible, as it’s not an easy task to convey Shakespearean dialog like it’s natural speech. Acker and Denisof are great as the central couple constantly sparring in a never ending and consistently hilarious battle of wits, and dramatically Fran Kranz is heartbreaking as a seemingly slighted Claudio. And I can’t forget to mention the scene stealing Nathan Fillion as the bumbling constable, Dogberry.


With its endlessly pithy dialog and being shot in black and white, this sort of project could have easily escalated into snobbery. But it never does, and it simply seems like a bunch of friends having a blast making a movie. As a result, you’ll likely be wearing a smile on your face most of the time.

When Michael Bay took a break from making action blockbusters, he made Pain & Gain, and I almost walk out of the theater. When Joss Whedon did the same thing, he’s given us something infinitely more personal and enjoyable. See it for yourself if you can.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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