Note: I attempted to write this review in iambic pentameter. I was almost through line 10 when I decided to rip the paper into four pieces.
How much you like this Whedonization depends on how much you enjoy Shakespeare.
I’ve read two Shakespearean plays, and neither one was my choice. If I can help it, I will never read Much Ado about Nothing. But that’s Shakespeare’s fault. It certainly isn’t that of Joss Whedon, the director of this reimagination. Whedon has given me a new perspective of Shakespeare. He’s the god of fanboyism, with credits like Angel, Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse, The Avengers, The Cabin in the Woods, and a three-part web series called Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (which I’d highly recommend). It doesn’t surprise me that Whedon would do Shakespeare on top of that.
Much Ado about Nothing is a decent modern retelling. It’s flawed by the many characters; try keeping up with their names and their relations to each other. It’s like watching a muddled soap opera, which is saved by the cast, as is much of the movie. Amy Acker is perfect as Beatrice, as is Riki Lindhome as the (now female) Conrade. My biggest surprise was seeing Fran Kranz in a role that does not offer him marijuana (whatever happened to the guy who was too stoned to stand in The Cabin in the Woods?).
The movie is meant for Shakespeare’s fans. I honestly can’t imagine my watching Much Ado about Nothing more than once or twice, but a Shakespeare fan might react differently. The movie is definitely in love with the Bard, but once you get past the archaic dialogue (not that it’s really in the way), Much Ado about Nothing is truly Joss Whedon’s film. We laugh at his quirkiness more than Shakespeare’s earthquake of malapropisms. It’s a lot more than we expect for a film billed with, “Shakespeare knew how to throw a party.”
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