Much Ado About Nothing

Directed By: Joss Whedon

Starring: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, Jillian Morgese, and Ashley Johnson

I can't believe I'm saying this, but what do Shakespeare and The Avengers have in common?  The beloved Joss Whedon.  In his first directorial effort after his mega blockbuster with Marvel, Whedon takes a break from adapting comics to the big screen and focuses on a smaller project.  That smaller project is adapting the classic literature of Shakespeare.  While Much Ado About Nothing doesn't sound like a good break from the depths of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems to be a surprising amount of fun. 

Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), a prince of Spain, has arrived in Messina along with his officers Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof).  Greeted by Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, the royal trio soon finds that love is in the air, especially given Leonato’s lovely daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese) and his equally lovely niece Beatrice (Amy Acker).  Claudio immediately falls for Hero, and Pedro arranges the marriage of the two.  They are now set to wed in seven days.  Not done with his matchmaking, Pedro concocts a plan with the help of Leonato, Claudio, and Hero to reconnect two former lovers and longtime rivals, Benedick and Beatrice.  Little does the prince know that his evil bastard brother Don John (Sean Maher) would love nothing more than to kill the romance in Messina.  The evil brother puts a plan in motion to do just that.

Much Ado About Nothing is an immensely creative adaptation of Shakespeare's classic play.  It's proof that Joss Whedon can't be boxed into the world of blockbuster filmmaking or to the sci-fi genre for that matter.  With a contemporary setting (Whedon’s house) and a contemporary take on romance, Whedon has taken one of the oldest romantic comedies and reinvented it in a very modern way.  Much Ado About Nothing is a vibrant, energetic film filled with endless humor and a lot of heart.  In a blockbuster season where rom coms are a rare thing, Whedon's excellent, quirky adaptation shines brightly on the big screen in black and white invoking a classic feel.

Whedon is a master at turning mundane interplay amongst his characters into something more.  The fact that Much Ado About Nothing is filled with pure hilarity speaks volumes about this.  The actors spit out Shakespearean dialogue in such a way that it's not dated material.  It's apparent in the actors' mannerisms, their body language, and even the timing with which they deliver their lines.  With Whedon at the helm, the actors focus on getting the little things right and turning the least important lines into the most hilarious ones.  This refreshing adaptation works perfectly because of this. 

The cast of Much Ado About Nothing is firing on all cylinders.  As Benedick and Beatrice, Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker have strong romantic chemistry on screen.  It's fun to watch their bitterness for one another turn to head-over-heels affection.  Together, Denisof and Acker make one lovable, funny couple.  Their co-stars Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese make a lovely, passionate couple as Claudio and Hero.  As Don Pedro and Leonato, Reed Diamond and Clark Gregg step away from the serious roles in which we normally see them in film and television and become two funny social butterflies.  Detective Kellerman and Agent Coulson get silly and keep the laughs coming.  Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Nathan Fillion's riotous performance as the incompetent Dogberry.  Richard Castle finally fulfills his dream of becoming a cop.  Though Conrade (Riki Lindhome) considers him an ass, Fillion's Dogberry is the funniest man on camera.

With vicious zombies, Kryptonian aliens, and monsters conquering the box office, it's nice to have some heartwarming counterprogramming that puts a little love in the atmosphere.  Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing is an inventive reimagining of the classic stage play.  The rich source material is already there.  Whedon and his cast just take it to hilarious new territories.  I'm just surprised the actors were able to keep straight faces while having so much fun and delivering so many laughs.  Much Ado About Nothing gets a sober rating.