Thursday, June 13, 2013

Joss Whedon's witty homage to Shakespeare, 'Much Ado About Nothing'

"Much Ado About Nothing" is as charming and as well acted as any viewer could hope for. Filmed in 12 days in black and white, it's a breezy, somewhat truncated version of the original and will delight viewers with it's modern take and fast clip.

In the summer of 2011, the writer-director Joss Whedon, having completed principal photography on Marvel's Avengers Assemble, was contractually obliged to take a week off before he began editing.

Instead of taking the time off, Whedon, a Shakespearean geek from a long ways back, and at the urging of his wife, decided to film a play.

Those familiar with Shakespeare's version won't find anything startling about this: Claudio (Fran Kranz) falls in love with Heor (Jullian Morgese). At the same time. Benedict (Alexis Denisoff) and Beatrice (Amy Archer) trade barbs. Their encounters are made all the more bitter by Benedict's betrayal of Beatrice's love.

The Duke (Reed Diamond) and his entourage have decided to play a little trick on the two antagonists. When the two enemies are in view, but ostensibly hidden, the rest of the  gossip what the two are really madly in love with each other.

Soon enough, both Beatrice and Benedict are being fools for love; Denisoff shows a real talent for physical comedy which will come as no surprise to those who saw him as Wesley in both "Buffy" and "Angel."

The snake in the grass is the Duke's bastard brother, slickly and sexily played by Sean Maher, another Whedon regular, who sets up the lovers for a nasty bit of misunderstanding. Villainy, comedic turn by Nathan Fillion as the weary fool, head of a security firm, a fake death are resolved for a happy ending for all.

Don't worry about spoilers. Playgoers since Shakespeare's day know how the play will end. Lacking the artificial suspense of an unknown ending, viewers can relax and enjoy the Southern California setting and lines spoken clearly with an American accent. Whedon's stripped down version works better in the comedic scenes than in the one's which need Shakespearean narrative. But for lovers of good, old-fashioned romantic comedy, it's this summer's sparkling hit.

Directed by Joss Whedon; written by Mr. Whedon, based on the play by Shakespeare; director of photography, Jay Hunter; edited by Daniel S. Kaminsky and Mr. Whedon; music by Mr. Whedon; production design by Cindy Chao and Michele Yu; costumes by Shawna Trpcic; produced by Mr. Whedon and Kai Cole; released by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes.

WITH: Amy Acker (Beatrice), Alexis Denisof (Benedick), Nathan Fillion (Dogberry), Fran Kranz (Claudio), Jillian Morgese (Hero), Sean Maher (Don John), Reed Diamond (Don Pedro), Clark Gregg (Leonato) and Tom Lenk (Verges).

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