Much Ado About Nothing

Starring: Kenneth Branagh,  Emma Thompson Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Sigh no more, ladies (and gentlemen).  Valentine's Day is upon us, and truly it is a ridiculous and contrived holiday.  However, I do feel the need to bestow you, my loyal readers, with a token of my appreciation for your support.  In honor of my favorite comedy by Wm. Shakespeare and a statement of my true feelings on February 14th, I present you with my review of Much Ado About Nothing.

The plot specifics are relatively unimportant – if you know Shakespeare, you know what happens. Some sappy lovers and some comedic characters are introduced, a treacherous plot by a evil jerk emerges, an event that throws a monkey wrench into the whole works (in this film, it has to do with mistaken identity) occurs, the audience gets some comic relief from a buffoon, there is a faked death, a rift in a friendship and/or threats of violence happen, and then there is a happy resolution with marriage, music and dancing.

The beauty of this film is the casting.

  • Keanu Reeves is the villain; his first line is "I am a man of few words."  His acting style conforms well to a character who displays passive-aggressive unhappiness with stiff posture and a scowl.
  • Denzel Washington as the charming Don Pedro, striding through the film with presence and grace.  He is a natural and respected leader among the band of soldiers he commands, a sincere courtier to the ladies – yet not above schoolboy mischief.
  • Michael Keaton as the oddball and not-too-bright constable Dogberry who rides around on an invisible horse, is highly offended by a prisoner calling him an ass, and unwittingly saves the day.
  • Robert Sean Leonard and Kate Beckinsale as Claudio and Hero, the two innocent lovers.  Both are cutely earnest, very gullible and cry a lot (especially Claudio).  Yet, we can't help but hope these two kids can work things out.  What's a Shakesperian comedy without a wedding in Act V?
  • Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh as Beatrice and Benedick are the pair that truly make this a great comedy.  Both are fiercely stubborn, 'more mirth than matter,' and set against marriage. Whenever they meet they only speak to each other in humorous insults.  After Don Pedro and others decide it would be very merry indeed to convince Benedick that Beatrice is in love with him (and vice versa), the following scenes are absolutely hysterical.  While Benedick attempts to hide behind a shrubbery in the garden, Don Pedro and company spin yarns of a love-struck Beatrice with giggling glee.

As far as Shakespeare remakes go, I put it at the top of the list (closely followed by the Baz Luhrmann version of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet with Mel Gibson, and 10 Things I Hate About You (which is loosely based on The Taming of the Shrew).

If you:

  • have an aversion to The Bard
  • prefer your movies in modern English rather than Ye Olde English
  • don't enjoy British humor (especially 16th century British humor)

Don't put it in the queue.

If you:

  • like a witty comedy
  • are willing to endure (or at least fast-forward) the mostly dull Act IV
  • enjoy a star-studded film that requires – and delivers – actual acting

Put it in the queue!

Written by Jennifer Venson