Whedon's 'Much Ado' a well-played take on Shakespeare
It surprised no one that, with his pop-culture sensibility and love for the genre, Joss Whedon was able to do such wonderful things with “The Avengers.”
So, it probably shouldn't be a surprise to learn that Whedon is also marvelously adept at Shakespeare, as his do-it-yourself version of “Much Ado About Nothing” affirms. And why not? Whedon is a master of wit, of clever wordplay that doesn't just entertain but crackles with knowing energy.
That Shakespeare fellow was pretty good at it, too.
Purists might argue that this is Shakespeare done “light,” that it is some lesser version. Don't listen. Like most movie versions, it's necessarily been abridged, but what “Much Ado About Nothing” is, in reality, Shakespeare done well, with a contemporary feel (and setting) that does nothing to diminish its appeal or impact.
Amy Acker also has something to do with that. Her portrayal of the quick-witted, sharp-tongued Beatrice is outstanding, making her more than a match for Alexis Denisof's equally clever Benedick. Their loquacious flirtation is a crucial element of the play, and these two bring the words to life in believable, relatable ways (even though Whedon doesn't update the language).
That they are stalwart members of Whedon's stable of go-to actors is no accident. Much of the cast is (including Nathan Fillion as the dimwitted Dogberry), bringing a comfort level to the ensemble that strengthens the production.
The play concerns the impending marriage of Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese). A group of people is gathered at the home of Hero's father, Leonato (Clark Gregg, ever-reliable), for drinking and talking and drinking some more. As Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) works to bring the couple to the altar, Don John (Sean Maher) schemes to tear them apart.
So, not a lot different from your average melodrama, really. What sets it apart is the banter, the inspired wordplay, particularly between Beatrice and Benedick. It takes some verbal dexterity to sell it, and Acker and Denisof do. They are a delight to spend time with, the rapid-fire dialogue, intricately constructed as it may be to modern ears, landing squarely every time.
Whedon shot the film, in black and white, over 12 days at his own home, as a break from making “The Avengers.” This may make it sound like a vanity project, something a rich, creative guy does for fun.
Far from it. While not everyone in the cast is as comfortable with the dialogue as Acker, for whom it seems natural, there is a clear love for the material here in every performance, in every shot. It's not stuffy or remote. It's fun.
Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic is the chief film critic for Gannett.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh-set ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ sweeps Sundance
- 5-year-old boy needed for ‘Let It Snow’ role
- Romero’s son plans ‘Living Dead’ origins story
- Review: Law can’t manage to keep ‘Black Sea’ afloat
- Review: A tired gimmick weakens thriller ‘Project Almanac’
- Review: Stylish whodunit ‘The Loft’ doesn’t reach narrative heights