Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, is visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) who is returning from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). Accompanying Don Pedro are two of his officers: Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). While in Messina, Claudio falls for Leonato's daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick verbally spars with Beatrice (Amy Acker), the governor's niece. The budding love between Claudio and Hero prompts Don Pedro to arrange with Leonato for a marriage. In the days leading up to the ceremony, Don Pedro, with the help of Leonato, Claudio and Hero, attempts to sport with Benedick and Beatrice in an effort to trick the two into falling in love. Meanwhile, the villainous Don John, with the help of his allies Conrade (Riki Lindhome) and Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark), plots against the happy couple, using his own form of trickery to try to destroy the marriage before it begins. A series of comic... Written by
Joss Whedon has achieved the impossible - he made a Shakespeare comedy, DULL!
I love Shakespeare. I love Much Ado About Nothing so was looking forward to this, but was royally disappointed. The only really good thing about it was the Script, and hey-ho that was written by The Bard! Whedon's direction was all over the place and the actors - or talking props as I will hereafter call them - were just reading the words on a page rather than performing them with any character. Has no-one seen Kenneth Branagh's version? What a delight that was by comparison.
What was with the black and white? This is supposed to be a joyous happy and exuberant play, and whilst it was set in modern times, it was decided to do it black and white. Why? What was the point? It added nothing and I think was a cheap attempt at "artiness!". The modern take largely worked well, and the grounds and setting of the house were very good but not one of the actors was stand out impressive for me. All were wooden and even Nathan Fillion's role as the Policeman Dogberry (one of the funniest roles in the play - in the Branagh version played brilliantly and filthily by Michael Keaton) was only funny because of the script and little because of delivery. The physical humour in the acting, which was sporadic, seemed incongruous given the serious-style of the rest of the performances, and just didn't gel with the overall story/humour of the piece. There were some terrible performances. Don Jon's dark and dastardly character had no threat or malice - no real darkness - and Conrad and Borachio didn't seem bad at all. Conrad as a woman too? What! I have see Much Ado done on the stage quite a few times and Branagh's version is a favourite, and this just didn't hold up next to it. Shakespeare (comedies) are bawdy, silly, witty, physical and over the top. This was trying to be Downton Abbey or something - heavy drama - with a few laughs. It just didn't work.
Fans of Whedon will no doubt love the who's who of "actors I've formerly worked with" but he needed to find actors that could actually handle Shakespearean comedy to give it a run for the money. Such a waste of good material, and it was the material that saved this film from being one or two out of ten. I give it a four because most of the acting performances were TERRIBLE. Shame. Crying shame.
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