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Shakespeare at his most exhilarating
Spleen17 August 1999
Be honest: does the idea of a Shakespearean joke make your heart sink a little? Do you think of obscure, lowbrow Elizabethan humour that MAYBE someone was kind enough to explain in a footnote?

Certainly the comedies are harder to stage, but when they're well done ... One of the most exhilarating things about Shakespeare is the certain knowledge that no character will ever express himself poorly. Well, characters like Dogberry do, in a sort of a way, but that's deliberately done for comic effect and doesn't count. No character is ever thwarted by a lack of expressive power. Whenever Benedick must plead his case, you know that he will summon up all the eloquence he needs; and whenever Beatrice insults anyone, you know that she will summon up all the venom and wit SHE needs. In some ways it's easier to appreciate this in a comedy when the plot is, reduced to its essence, much ado about nothing.

No film director working today can approach Branagh when it comes to presenting Shakespeare cleanly and clearly, in a way that lets us participate in this verbal delight. This particular film is actually funny, as well as verbally delightful. It's also visually delightful - it has an attractive cast (Kate Beckinsale plays one of Shakespeare's ciphers but makes us understand why people fell in love with her), a sunny Tuscan landscape and a long tracking shot at the end that has to be seen to be believed. Performances are all good (other comments here have convinced me that even Keanu Reeves fits into his role). Comedy or not, this is the best Shakespeare film in years and is a candidate for being the best of all time.
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I am quite confused about the reviews
Theoriginaltruebrit10 September 2001
Personally I loved the movie, from the opening credits to the last brilliant tracking shot. What I do not understand is the dissing of Keanu Reeves' performance. I can just imagine Ken sitting around his kitchen table with his casting director saying "okay we have this brilliant ensemble cast, the movie is going to be great, what can we do to completely screw it up? I know let's cast Keanu Reeves as Don John and completely snarl up the whole thing" Personally I think Keanu made a great villain, and I trust Ken's ability in casting to choose the perfect actor for the part. I do not think that in reality that Ken would cast someone so hopelessly inept as others have posted in a part that is so essential to the plot. (and don't give me the star power excuse cause they already had Denzel Washington)..., I have always said that Shakespere done right is brilliant.. (done poorly it is pathetic) and this is Shakespere done right in the purest sense of the term. To listen to Ken and Em deliver Shakespere's lines is to listen to them as they would have been spoken and acted when they were written. It is a revelation and pure joy.
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Stunning and witty--Shakespeare at his best
Kimberley (kimmb)13 August 1999
Kenneth Branagh has done so much for Shakespeare...I've almost become a complete zealot of his work. This screen adaptation of one of Shakespeare's lesser-known comedies is absolutely divine. The lovers Claudio and Hero are completely and wonderfully upstaged by Benedick and Beatrice, the most perfectly mismatched pair in the history of love, exactly as they were meant to be. The chemistry between Ken and Emma is so believable (after all, this was filmed before their marriage ended), the lines are so cunningly delivered, and the plot is so beautifully twisted and resolved that this movie is at the very top of my list of favorites. The setting is absolutely gorgeous--Italy in all its Summer glory. You can fairly taste the sunshine. Each part is completely delightful (Michael Keaton is perfect in one of the most bizarrely comedic roles I've ever seen, and as far as Keanu Reeves' performance, all I can say is that the part was written to be played in that manner. Don John was a bad guy of necessity--every comedy must have a foil). I found the entire production to be beautifully done and quite up to the professional standards that I've come to expect under Branagh's excellent direction. The wit sparkles and cracks between Beatrice and Benedick; a direct counter to the more traditional and borderline sappy form of Elizabethan love exhibited between Hero and Claudio. *This* is how the wise woo, and no, it is never peaceably! A smart, funny and visually stunning gem of a film to add to Branagh's already distinguished repertoire. I'm waiting for his MacBeth.
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Truly Wonderful! A great movie!
Skeletors_Hood9 November 2001
Brilliant! Kenneth Branagh's version of the timeless William Shakespeare classic is a great rendition of the film, making it accessible to everyone, even those who do not like Shakespeare.

Let me first say that I am a great fan of Shakespeare's works. In college I was an English literature major, with a minor in theater, and so Shakespeare is found in both. Theater people state that Shakespeare was never literature at all, which in the purpose of the plays is true, however because of the prose that he wrote in is a poetic form, he is literature as well. Whatever you do, never get in between two people arguing this point, your head might blow up!

Reading the comments on this page, the basic attack on this movie is that Branagh cuts lines and shaved parts. Yes, of course he did. Nothing is sacred, not even the works of Shakespeare, people. I myself was in a Shakespeare play, and over half the script was cut from it. With a Shakespeare play, the question is what to cut. If this play had been presented in it's entirety, it would have been close to five hours long. And today's movie audience just does not have that kind of patience. "Titanic" was stretching it a little, in terms of time. Shakespeare's original audience would have had no problem, because they made a day of it.

So when Branagh did this play, he had to shave off a great deal of the script, and he had to decide what to focus on. He had to focus on the main characters, being Beatrice and Benedict and their romance, and of course the drama concerning Hero and Claudio, but also keep other characters incorporated as well. For those attacking the "whittling down" of the script, why didn't anyone bring up the point that Benedict is supposed to have shaved his beard while in attempt to woo Beatrice. Why? Because it really isn't a major plot point that is needed at all. So Branagh made great choices in his direction of the film, and in the end he made sure that everything tied together logically, and that there were no loose ends.

The performances by the actors were great as well. There was nothing wrong with casting Denzel Washington as the prince, though people seem to have a beef with it. He pulled it off very well. And Keanu Reeves did a great job as well. It was a treat to see him as a villain. I happen to be a fan of Reeves, and I do see him as great casting, though why people also have a problem with him I'll never know. Branagh was going for acting ability, not just names. Reeves has the goods, and he can speak Shakespeare very well, it's his character that's supposed to be moody. And Keaton was a wonderful choice for the Constable, making me laugh whenever he was on the screen. And the other actors all did very well in their roles.

If you're a lover of Shakespeare or not, this film is a great treat, and it appeals to all audiences who love the classic masterpiece.
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Brilliant! And sure to make people interested in Shakespeare once again
o_levina19 November 2001
It's one of the most delightful adaptations of Shakespeare ever made. Personally, I am a great fan of Shakespeare, but it seems that the film must appeal even to those who normally don't like the Bard. Kenneth Branagh is at his best both as producer and performer. I admire his imagination and ingenuity, which he applies to his work. He created beautiful, picturesque, entertaining, amusing and hilarious movie with awesome actor's work and fine music. Some cuts of the original play were essential to make the movie dynamic, and the play was not considerably damaged. All members of the starring cast make Shakespearean text sound natural, alive and very funny. Emma Thompson shines as bright ginger-haired Beatrice. It goes without saying that she's an actress of unique talent, and in this film she does an amazing job, being lively, sharp and witty, sparkling with energy, humor and cheerfulness, or sometimes vehement and passionate (when her cousin is offended). Branagh as Benedick is up to her. Other notable performances are given by imposing Brian Blessed (seigneur Antonio) and Richard Briers (seigneur Leonato). Robert Sean Leonard and Kate Beckinsale as Claudio and Hero are adequate and beautiful pair. Keanu Reeves is really good in the part of grim, villainous Don John, notwithstanding opinions of many reviewers here. Michael Keaton's Constable Dogberry and other comic characters makes me laugh a lot through the film. Definitely, this is an excellent film for enjoyment. 10/10.
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Wonderful sparky fun which only flags in the final 10 minutes
bob the moo4 April 2003
The arrival of Don Pedro and his men at the home of Seigneur Leonato in Messina brings about much celebration. The spirit of love and happiness is alive in the party and Count Claudio and Leonato's daughter Hero make woo and engage to marry within a week. To pass the time Don Pedro makes a pledge to engage confirmed bachelor Benedick and the bickering Beatrice together in a tower of affection. However Claudio's brother, Don John, conspires to break up the wedding by making accusations against young Hero. Will it all be much ado about nothing?

If anyone has done more to bring Shakespeare to a modern audience of multiplex dwellers, I'd like to meet them. Here Branagh yet again adapts a Shakespeare play to good effect, trimming the dialogue of some important sections with the aim of creating a lighter feel worthy of the title. I make no mention of the plot suffice to say that Branagh has done well to keep the essence and feel of the work very true but without forcing the tools that Shakespeare readily used but may not work on modern audiences easily (i.e. not being able to recognise someone easily when they wear a mask, veil or moustache!).

The dialogue is very sparky as you'd expect and Branagh has done well to interpret the humour from the words on the page. I think of the dialogue around the police officer. Reading it from the page I never realised how much humour could be drawn form this characters scenes in terms of how the other characters view in. Of course the praise of lies with Shakespeare but Branagh knows the Bard well.

The cast is international and all-star (probably to a greater extent than it needed or deserved). Branagh is pure wonder in the lead and really brings out the whimsy in many of his scenes. Thompson too is wonderful and the two play off each other well. The film lost a little when the two begin to woo, but it is still enjoyable. Briers is excellent and Blessed is a bit hammy and underused (forcing big background laughs). Reeves is OK in a small role – the lack of significant dialogue helped him. Washingon fits in very well, Leonard is good but straight. Of the Hollywood stars I think Keaton does the best. When he is onscreen he is a little OTT but he is simply hilarious as the fool of the piece, and Ben Elton is an interesting sidekick. Beckinsdale is good but again is not given much meat to work with outside of her perfect love for Claudio.

Overall this is a very enjoyable version of the play. Those who find Shakespeare difficult could do well to start here with something light and bubbly. Those who enjoy Shakespeare will enjoy it as another version. Only those who feel that the Bard should not be put onscreen for the masses (and there are some who think this way – I have met them, they laughably call themselves purists – elitists I think) will find fault here, because this clearly has mass appeal.
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Mild and merry! A really great movie.
revival0519 April 2000
Much Ado About Nothing

From the beginning to the end, I was comfortable with this movie. The script mixed with the directing and the terrific acting created a glad feeling over this movie. The clips when sir.Benedict and Beatrice are extremely happy to the fake-news arranged by the prince, to the tunes of the main theme you smile, just because it is such a merry film. The language is highly enjoyable, of course. The love-enemies between Benedict and Beatrice are fabulous. Keanu Reeves is good, for once. Denzel Washington really is enjoying being in a Shakespeare-movie, and Branagh is very, very entertaining. I love this movie.

My Rating: 8.5/10
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A beautiful film to enjoy
angel_de_tourvel1 July 2004
I saw this one or two years ago, and I loved it utterly. Not only has it a great cast including shakesperian actors Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson, it also has a lovely, warm feel to it; set in the sunny countryside of Italy; perfect to watch on a summer's evening. Although I am a dedicated admirer of Laurence Olivier, the legend who's reputation Brannagh is often set up against; I must admit that nobody would ever suit the role of Benedick as Brannagh does He was perfect; fun, natural and wittily amusing to watch. As for Emma Thompson; she gave a fantastically fiery performance as Beatrice of the untamed tongue; watching she and Brannagh go for each other in their satirical arguments was fantastic.

Then there was Kate Beckindsale; one who I really would not have expected in a film such as this, but she did an exemplary and satisfying job as the fair Hero; although put completely in the shade by Emma Thompson. Keanu Reeves, the film star who I reckon NOBODY would have expected in a film such as this was surprisingly very good as the schemingly dark Don Jon, he suited the hiss-hiss villain's role deliciously. One who I thought could have been cast better was Robert Sean Leonard, as Claudio; who, although fine in scenes of wit and amusement; became forced in scenes of anger and sadness. Despite this, I thought he too suited the part well. I highly recommend this film to all who enjoy shakespeare, great English actors, or just good fun.
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A real summer movie (spoilers)
Alain English24 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"Much Ado About Nothing" is a real summer movie. Director Kenneth Branagh, who also adapted the Shakespeare play, has assembled a talented gallery of British actors (along with a couple of American stars) who really gel together and bring the film to life. The result is a film with plenty of wit, chemistry and gusto.

Opening in the sun-drenched fields of Messina (in reality, Tuscany, where the picture was filmed), a quiet prologue gives way to a stirring credits sequence as the Prince Don Pedro (Denzel Washington) and his men return from war, and Messina's Governor Leonato (Richard Briers) and his family prepare to greet them. This is the setting for a series of comical romantic shenanigans.

The brave but naive soldier Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) immediately falls for Leonato's virtuous young daughter Hero (Kate Beckinsdale), and it takes a little matchmaking by the Prince in order to get them together. Elsewhere the Prince observes that the witty banter between his friend Benedick (Kenneth Branagh) and Beatrice (Emma Thompson) conceal a much deeper attraction, and he conspires with his friends to trick the pair into falling in love with each other.

Skulking his way through all of this is Don John (Keanu Reeves), Don Pedro's illegitimate brother, whose bitter envy of Claudio leads him to sabotage the courtship between him and Hero...

The original text of "Much Ado" contains a lot of poetic references to baldricks, toothaches and sheepskins. Branagh, in adapting the play, has thankfully clipped most of this out, though many of the play's better lines are still included. Only people who hate Shakespeare with a passion will fail to be enthralled by what is going on.

The talented cast excel in their various roles. Branagh and Emma Thompson), still married when this film was made, have a spiky chemistry together as Beatrice and Benedick. Denzel Washington lends a quiet nobility and dignity to Don Pedro, while Richard Briers turns in his usual fine performance as the feisty but savvy Leonato.

Kate Beckinsdale radiates innocence as the gentle Hero, although Robert Sean Leonard has a harder job as Claudio. He's fine being witty or enthusiastic, but is very awkward and forced when trying to portray anger or sorrow. Keanu Reeves, much mocked at the time for his lacklustre performance in "Bram Stoker's Dracula", is surprisingly effective as the scheming Don John, and is a really hissable villain.

The only actor who disappoints is Michael Keaton as Constable Dogberry, the policeman who instructs and supervises Leonato's night-time watch. Keaton unfortunately goes far too over-the-top and plays the constable as a demented drunkard. A more laid-back performance could have better accentuated the humour in the role.

The whole film is framed within Patrick Doyle's rousing music score, which gives the film a lot of its spirit and atmosphere.

All in all, a lighthearted and witty picture, and a fine example of a really good summer movie.
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Best Shakespeare film ever
sarastro729 December 2003
Unlike some people, I'm not letting Keanu Reeves' "acting" ruin this film for me. He has such a small part, and I'm sure Branagh was fully aware of what he was doing when he cast wooden Reeves to play a wooden role. Reeves is indeed the one substandard thing about this film, but even so, it somehow works (Reeves' role, I mean). This film is about rapt joy and ebullient vitality, and Reeves' flatness creates precisely the contrast that makes his character stand out as totally unfit for the world presented in the film, just as the beginning of Richard III establishes Richard as unfit for *his* times (only, he had enough cunning and opportunity to really foul things up!). There is no mistake, neither on the Bard's nor Branagh's part, in casting Reeves as Don John.

Having gotten that out of the way, I'd just like to say that this is my favorite Shakespeare film ever. It is perfect in virtually every way, and I think Branagh displays a marvelous and rare understanding of the textual material. This is an immortal classic that I've seen a dozen times and that I am certain I will continue to watch on a regular basis for the rest of my life.

10 out of 10.
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A Film about Everything that Makes Life Worth Living
James Hitchcock21 July 2006
Prior to "Much Ado About Nothing" most memorable cinematic Shakespeare adaptations were based upon his tragedies or histories. Thus we had Olivier's trilogy of "Henry V", "Richard III" and "Hamlet", Welles's "Othello" and "Macbeth", Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet", Heston's "Antony and Cleopatra" (something of a rarity, but still worth seeing) and the Brando/Mason/Gielgud version of "Julius Caesar". Shakespeare's comedies were less common in the cinema, probably because so much Shakespearean humour is based either upon puns and wordplay which worked better in Elizabethan English than they do in the modern language or upon topical references to the events of the 1590s and 1600s, lost upon today's audiences. There was that old "Midsummer Night's Dream" from the thirties and Derek Jarman's rather eccentric version of "The Tempest", but generally the cinema took the view that the comedies were best left to the theatre and television.

With his own version of "Henry V", well-received by most critics when it came out in 1989, Kenneth Branagh inherited Olivier's role as Britain's leading cinematic Shakespearean. It was perhaps something of a gamble for him to choose a comedy as his second Shakespeare adaptation, but it was a gamble that paid off. The film was shot in a villa in the hills of Tuscany and in the beautiful, sunlit surrounding countryside. The costumes are vaguely nineteenth-century, but the clear intention was to set the story in a timeless, never-never land, a sort of rustic earthly paradise. (Those claiming supposed anachronisms as goofs, therefore, have rather missed the point. It does not matter whether they had piano-accordions in sixteenth-century Sicily, as this film is obviously not aiming at an accurate recreation of sixteenth-century Sicilian life).

Just like the original paradise, this one contains a serpent in the shape of Don John, the evil brother of the Prince of Messina. What is technically the main plot of Shakespeare's play concerns Don John's spiteful machinations to frustrate the marriage of the young soldier Claudio to the beautiful Lady Hero by making false accusations of unchastity against her. I say "technically" because this storyline often has to take second place to the sub-plot about the wooing of Beatrice and Benedick. Benedick starts out as a confirmed bachelor and Beatrice an ardent proto-feminist, but (in a plot development which has been copied in thousands of romantic comedies ever since) they end up by falling in love with one another. Their verbal duels were so popular with audiences that at one time the play was better known as "Beatrice and Benedick" than by its official title.

In the late eighties and early nineties Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thomson ("Ken and Em") were the golden couple of the British acting profession. Like a number of other golden couples (Larry and Viv, Richard and Liz, Jude and Sadie), their relationship was eventually to end unhappily, but while they were together they were cast opposite one another in a number of productions, and it is they who take on the roles of the feuding pair. Both were practised Shakespearean actors, and they speak their lines with great clarity and simplicity, bringing out all the humour and drama in their parts. Richard Briers is equally good as Leonato, Hero's aged father. Hero herself, despite her central role in the drama, is, on the page, a rather colourless figure, but the lovely Kate Beckinsale, in her first major film role, makes her a delightful and unaffected heroine.

Besides a number of leading British stage actors, Branagh also cast several Hollywood stars, doubtless with an eye to the American box office. He was criticised for this in Britain, but in my view, given the unreal, idealised world in which the film is set, the mixture of British and American accents does not matter. Nor does the fact that Messina has a black Duke with a Hawaiian brother, although all of his subjects are white.

The most criticised of the American stars seems to have been Keanu Reeves. Although he is perhaps not the greatest speaker of blank verse, I must say in his defence that, psychologically, he seems just right for the role of Don John. Whereas the other characters are full of high spirits and good humour, he is a saturnine figure who seems to radiate gloom and ill-will, a man whose malice arises from his envy of the happiness of others. Of the others, Denzel Washington is appropriately dignified as Don Pedro. Robert Sean Leonard rather struggles with Claudio, but it is a thankless role, a man who is technically the romantic lead but whose jealousy and credulity make him a rather unsympathetic figure. The one actor I did not like was Michael Keaton who over-acts frantically in a weird accent as the drunken constable Dogberry, but even he did not spoil the film for me.

A special mention must go to the wonderful theme music by Patrick Doyle, essentially a single theme which is heard, in a number of guises, throughout. (Figure-skating fans like me will always recall this as the music to which Tonya Harding skated at the 1994 Winter Olympics while under suspicion for the attack on Nancy Kerrigan; rumour had it that the choice of music from a film about a woman wrongly accused was a quite deliberate gesture to protest her innocence).

This stirring theme fits the mood of the film perfectly. It is a film about love, laughter, happiness, friendship, sunlight and the beauty of nature- in short, a film about everything that makes life worth living. In my view, the greatest-ever film of a Shakespeare comedy. Perhaps the best-ever film of s Shakespeare play. 10/10
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Fell in love all over again
thrwmbsbgkdoepmcjrmrdw10 September 2013
I loved this movie when it first came out 20 years ago and I think mostly cause I had such a crush on Robert Sean Leonard. I didn't get a lot of the story line or humor it when I was younger. I was only 9 when it came to theaters. I now own the movie and just recently saw it again. I hadn't seen it in a long time. Now I can't seem to get enough of it. I fell in love with the movie all over again. This time for other reasons like the plot and humor of it. The acting is superb by all. My favorite is no longer Claudio but Bennedick and then Beatrice. I think they had the most chemistry between them. It helps that the actors were married to each other at the time. If you haven't seen the movie yet, I highly recommend you rent it and see it.
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one of the most joyous and uplifting films of all time
HelenMary4 August 2013
One of Shakespeare's greatest romantic comedies, adapted and Directed by one of Shakespeare's greatest aficionados, Mr Kenneth Branagh, this film is brilliant. The ensemble cast make the film a wonderful viewing experience; Richard Briars, Brian Blessed, Kate Beckinsale, Robert Sean Leonard, Keanu Reeves, Emma Thompson, Imelda Staunton, Denzel Washington and Michael Keaton to name a few. It is filmed simply, as a costume drama, making the most of a country house and gardens in Messina, Sicily.

The comedy is played up - especially brilliant by the greasy Keaton as the over-eager Constable Dogberry, Branagh and Thompson and the trick that is thought up by Denzel Washington's Prince. The older more seasoned actors are stunning in this - Branagh and Thompson speak their lines as if it were plain modern English and bring it alive, Washington - always brilliant - is beautifully cast. Much has been made of Reeves playing the evil Don John woodenly but his aggressive and solid dark performance is a great foil for the light fluffy acting of everyone else and he's got Shakespeare lead experience up to his ears. I felt the weak performance was Robert Sean Leonard, and his eagerness was a little cringeworthy but he still played well in the ensemble. It has song and dance, is exuberant and jubilant, sexy, romantic funny and above all fun. Any time I watch it I feel so happy afterwards, the finale of the big wedding and dance. Great viewing. And, any womens' knees are sure to tremble at Washington's line, "Would you have me, lady?" or all the men coming riding over the hill...

Wonderful film, lovely story and great performances. Laugh out loud humour, great musical score (the song "Pardon Goddess of the Night" is stunning) and flawless direction. Branagh is worth every award, as is Thompson - they were a formidable acting powerhouse couple.
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What a lovely film!
TinyDanseur2720 June 2013
What a delightful film/play! It's both funny and dramatic and I thought that it was excellently cast. Kenneth Branaugh and Emma Thompson, in my eyes the King and Queen of Shakespeare, were a fabulous Benedick and Beatrice. A very young Kate Beckinsale was a lovely Hero, and Denzel Washington delighted me as Don Pedro, the Prince. I've never seen Much Ado About Nothing in play form before, but I thought it made for a wonderful film. One got to see the beautiful Italian countryside and villa where the play takes place. The costumes were simple but beautiful, and there was also a lovely incorporation of music and song into the scenes. There is nothing quite like live performance, which is what Shakespeare intended for his plays, yet I find that I appreciate all the possibilities that film presents.
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Visually Stunning, Brilliant Acting, Magical, Great Fun!
fourwinds424 June 2012
This is a movie I watch about once a year. The opening 10 minutes are worth it alone... Emma Thompson's lilting voice reading Shakespeare's verse "Hey Nonny Nonny" about philandering men against the backdrop of gorgeous Tuscany: the white bodices of the women, the red of the grapes and then the scene with the men riding in ... great movie making!!

The banter between Benedick (Branagh) and Beatrice (Thompson) is perfect, I loved all the American actors, particularly Denzel Washington as the Prince and Keanu Reeves as the bastard brother.. they were both very good. I also really appreciate Branagh's interpretation of Shakespeare and his delivery.. and the way he encourages the ensemble to deliver Shakespeare, so much more real than the awkward Shakespeare delivery of old.

With any Shakespeare piece, you know the story has to be excellent and Much Ado About Nothing is no exception. This is a wonderful romp through the countryside of Tuscany, the music is very good, there are some hilarious scenes and the costumes are just magical. My teenage daughters love it too and I have introduced this movie to teenagers and young people not "into" Shakespeare and they all loved it.

10 stars. This movie will last.
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Shakespeare would be proud...
MM8625 April 2005
Kenneth Branagh did a remarkable job of adapting this wonderful play into a film... as it conveyed many of Shakespeare's hidden direction and complex themes. Branagh's direction and choices create a blend of moods that carefully pull you in to be involved on an emotional level.

The cast in this film is a force not to be reckoned with. Performances by Robert Sean Leonard, Emma Thompson, and Kenneth Branagh were outstanding. Keanu Reeves did his job to say the most, but left nothing notable about his character... which was more complex then just being a "bad, evil, jealous guy"... But it's okay because The Razzie's did him justice. Michael Keaton channels his inner Beatle Juice to give a great performance as the dirty drunk constable.

The movie is extremely enjoyable from start to finish... slamming you with comedy and drama... at the same time, Shakespeare style!
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My favorite
bradchrisman26 November 2003
If I were to make out a list of my all-time favorite movies, my top 10 would look a lot like other people's top 10s. For sure the list would include It's a Wonderful Life, The Godfather, Star Wars, Casablanca, Schindler's List, L.A. Confidential and American Beauty. But my all-time favorite is, and has been for several years, Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing.

I've heard the complaints -- that Keanu Reeves is a stiff, that Denzel Washington was miscast, that Michael Keaton's Dogberry is too over the top, cartoonish, Monty Pythonish. But I've seen MAAN 10 or 12 times, and each time my appreciation for it has grown. I guess what it comes down to, for me, is that no movie is perfect. Every film has its flaws. I just really, really like this one -- warts and Keanu and all.

I would venture to philosophize that the same is true for anyone's favorite film -- for your favorite. If you like it that much, it's not just in spite of its flaws but because of them. Much Ado is my No. 1 mainly because of the writing (hard to beat Shakespeare) and the acting of the leads (Branagh and the amazing Emma Thompson), but also because of some of the other performances are accidentally perfect. Keanu unwittingly nails his role as the brooding and soulless Don John. Denzel plays Don Pedro as though Don Pedro realizes he's in a movie adaptation of a play by Shakespeare, which seems just perfect to me. And I don't know if Michael Keaton was on drugs or channeling an Elizabethean theater clown or what, but I think if Shakespeare could see Branagh's movie he would say that's the best Dogberry he's ever seen.
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Branagh bridges the millennium
dante-5216 December 1999
I like the unique spirit of melting together Shakespeare's original play with Kenneth Branagh's guiding hand that he gave his whole great acting crew. Can you imagine that a reprise of Star Wars in the year 2400 will have the same impact? By then mankind's heart can feel some 800 years of Shakespearean experience. Also Star Trek incorporates in it's episodes his timeless everlasting and universal plays. Branagh bridges the millennium. I feel great about to watch the happy and sunny scenery in a brilliant Tuscan countryside populated with exquisite actors. The opening comes with an landscape overlook taken from a painting and so is the whole movie. You can watch every single shot again and again and you will enjoy it like a precious painting. I love the music done by Patrick Doyle. You can see him play as Balthazar. Listening to his music makes me feel easy and happy again and the movie starts all over again in my mind. So I say thank you for the music and all the colors of life that you let me see and encounter! 10/10.
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A terrific Shakespeare story of love, betrayal and the battle of the sexes
Kristine28 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
William Shakespeare, a man ahead of his time who wrote some of the world's most beautiful and wonderful plays. He wrote tragedies, romances, comedies and one of his best comedies/drama that's personally my favorite Much Ado About Nothing. Kenneth Branagh directs another wonderful Shakespeare movie about love, reputation and the battle of the sexes. His chemistry with then wife Emma Thompson was so wonderful that made the movie just a delight. You can't help but smile with Much Ado About Nothing, making you just love life and to remind yourself that sometimes the good guys do win.

Don Pedro and his noblemen are visiting their good friend Leonato in Messina after having quashed the uprising led by Don John, the prince's bastard half-brother. Among the victors are Benedick, Leonato's niece, Beatrice, and Benedick's "sworn brother" Claudio, a young count. Claudio has been thinking fondly of Leonato's gentle and lovely daughter Hero since before he went to war, and returns to find her as attractive as ever. Don Pedro, learning of his young friend's feelings, arranges the match at a party. Despite Don John's best efforts to foil it, the Prince's plan works out perfectly in the end. Needing something to pass the time until the wedding day, Don Pedro decides to arrange a similar fate for Beatrice and Benedick. Of course, both parties being so stubborn to the opposite sex, this match will take a little more ingenuity. The night before the wedding, Borachio arranges to meet with Hero's gentlewoman Margaret at Hero's chamber window. John shows Claudio the rendezvous and makes them believe that they are seeing Hero in the act of infidelity. He breaks up the wedding and now it's a battle of the sexes and what damage you could do with a woman's reputation.

Of course the questionable choice of having Keanu Reeves as Don John, as usual a wooden performance that I'm sure would make Shakespeare cringe. However, there was more than an exceptional choice with having Michael Keaton as Dogberry, he was too funny and exactly who I would picture for the role. Him freaking out because the prisoner kept taunting him and calling him names was just classic, he brings it up later while trying to charge them with lying about Hero got a good chuckle out of me. The thing I absolutely adore about Much Ado About Nothing is that it shows how easily a woman's reputation could be ruined. It's so sad to see how quickly Claudio turns on Hero when he mistakes that she's having an affair. We don't blame him as it was an evil trick but just tragic to watch as he disgraces her in front of everyone and they all look at her with judging eyes including her own father. Brought in with the proper balance of drama and comedy, Kenneth Branagh brought in a great cast and crew to make this play into a wonderful picture. I love Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare may not be for everyone, but in my opinion, he's still one of the greatest writers of all time.

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Highly entertaining
quasardrake22 January 2016
A very entertaining version of the play. Marvelous performances all around. Reminds you of just WHY Denzel Washington deserves both the love of audiences and fans, and an Academy Award. Kenneth Branagh is an actor one either likes or dislikes, and I happen to like him. He is well matched here with Emma Thompson. Both are excellent in the principle roles of Benedick(the Bard's spelling) and Beatrice. The supporting cast is outstanding. I particularly like the marvelous Brian Blessed as Hero's uncle Antonio. Keanu Reeves is surprisingly good as the villainous Don Jon; it is possibly one of his very best screen performances. Robert Sean Leonard is good but not quite up to the others as Claudio, and Kate Beckinsale is somewhat better as the slandered maiden named Hero. Michael Keaton is hilarious as the constable whose language is so filled with circumlocutions that no one can understand him.

This Branagh Shakespearean production is considerably more edited for length than "Hamlet" or "Henry V", with a run time of just under two hours, which is just about right for most movie audiences. The trimming is judiciously done and the play hangs together very well, with the main plot points largely intact. His direction is crisp and the staging is very good. The language is not too difficult to follow, despite the fact that it was not modernized. I found this film vastly entertaining and particularly enjoyed Denzel Washington in it. Locations are beautiful and costumes attractive. I found almost nothing to complain about by the end, despite doubting whether Keanu Reeves would hold up in his role. He is fine. Overall this is a wonderful film, a good introduction to the Bard for younger audiences(though they may wish to review the plot beforehand), and a most pleasant choice for someone looking for a romantic comedy for a date night. I found it just delightful.
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Bright, sharp, witty, potent and colorful.
elbulgarian28 March 2015
Shakespeare, as it should be interpreted for the big screen. I must admit, this one is my personal favorite. And being a Kenneth Branagh fan, I think this is a real masterpiece. His performance is also remarkable. One could easily assume he was in love during the filming of the movie...:) Some people complain about the "wooden" Keanu, I think he was perfect for this role, as his character suppose to be grim and yes, wooden too - in perfect contrast to the rest. Every single bit of this movie feels right and in place. All the actors just... fit. The easiest and simplest test is to watch it several times. I did and I loved it. Thank you Kenneth Branagh, for the wonderful experience.
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Charming and effervescent Shakespeare adaptation
brchthethird14 November 2014
Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Shakespeare's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is nothing short of astounding. With one exception, every cast member brought their A-game, resulting in a movie that is overflowing with emotion and humor. Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson play Benedick and Beatrice, Denzel Washington plays Don Pedro and Michael Keaton does an excellently weird interpretation of Dogberry. The only downside is that Keanu Reeves is stuck in the thankless role of Don John, but fortunately the role isn't that substantial. Other aspects of the movie are just as impressive, from the on-location shooting in Tuscany to the score and a few beautiful songs. Shakespeare has rarely been so fun! A must-see for Shakespeare fans and people who like romantic comedies.
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Hey Nonny Nonny - wonderful adaptation
Katherina_Minola4 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This Shakespeare play revolves around two pairs of lovers – Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) and Hero (Kate Beckinsale), who find that because of the deception of others, the path of true love does not always run smoothly; and Beatrice (Emma Thompson) and Benedick (Kenneth Branagh), who have an antagonistic relationship and fall in love almost against their own wills.

Kenneth Branagh directs, co-produces and stars in this adaptation, and what a truly wonderful adaptation it is. It is full of colour and life, and left me with such a feeling of happiness afterwards, that it should be available to view on prescription! Denzel Washington has never looked more handsome than he does here as the Spanish Prince Don Pedro, Richard Briers as Hero's father Leonato and Brian Blessed as Leonato's brother Antonio are both wonderful in their roles, and Kate Beckinsale is sweet and lovely as Hero. It hardly needs to be said that Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson are both note-perfect as the squabbling Benedick and Beatrice, making perfect use of Shakespeare's sharp and witty banter. It's worth mentioning Michael Keaton's small but important part as police constable Dogberry, which he certainly makes the most of, stealing most of the scenes he is in. The casting isn't perfect – Keanu Reeves is an odd choice for the villain Don John, who leads Claudio into mistakenly believing that Hero has been unfaithful, and Robert Sean Leonard is rather wooden as Claudio. However, there is so much to enjoy in this film that it hardly matters.

Although it does contain dark themes – the aborted first wedding of Claudio and Hero is upsetting, particularly as the viewer knows that Hero has been slandered – it is mainly cheerful with a happy tone throughout. I'd recommend this to fans and non-fans of Shakespeare alike. It is definitely one of my favourite Shakespeare adaptations.
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Branagh at his best
Tara Hatch12 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of my all time favourite films - a classic feel good movie with all the humour and wit of Shakespeare blended with a star studded cast, lovely Italian scenery and directed by Kenneth Branagh. What could go wrong? Well, nothing to be honest. All the cast did well, I've heard minor qualms about the casting of Reeves as the villain, but personally I think he pulled it off superbly. Kate Beckinsale, not a big name at the time is able to cope admirably in the role of Hero, her shining moment in the film is her reaction to the disastrous wedding scene. The stars of the film are, unsurprisingly Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson who are truly wonderful as the sparring Beatrice and Benedick. They convey a magnificent chemistry in every encounter.

Much Ado has to be one of my favourite plays, a fresh relief from the doom and gloom of Branagh's other works. This is a film to watch which is guaranteed to leave you with a satisfied smile on your face by the end. There are plenty of highlights, the main one of which is the hilarity of Beatrice and Benedick each overhearing from their scheming friends the one's supposed love for the other.

I have nothing bad to say about this film - except that it took me too long to find it on DVD.
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