Much Ado About Nothing Review: Joss Whedon’s Backyard Shakespeare Experiment Mostly Works

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You may know him from last summer’s mega blockbuster The Avengers, but now we know that Joss Whedon has a knack for the smaller stuff as well.

His adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing has enough charm and wit to win over reluctant high school readers.

The plot of course follows the love lives of two cousins Beatrice and Hero (Amy Acker and Jillian Morgese respectively) and the bumbling suitors competing for their hands.

Whedon took a big risk with having it take place in the present and still use Shakespeare’s text practically line for line. It’s jarring to see Clark Gregg wearing a casual suit that screams this decade utter the famous line “There is a kind of merry war between Señor Benedick and her.”

For a while I was worried it would head into the boisterous, alienating territory of Baz Luhrmann’s “update” of Romeo and Juliet from the 1990s.

Luckily Whedon also chose to keep things as condensed as possible (he shot the film over the course of 12 days at his own house).

Still though, the dialogue takes you out of it for a while, at least until you embrace the stage like approach to the story. Shakespeare’s material is obviously entertaining enough to hold your attention.

But once you’re there and fully tuned in, it feels like a private show Whedon and all of his actor buddies are putting on just for you. It helps that they are having a ball doing it. Nathan Fillion in particular appears to be enjoying himself to the fullest.

So if you are a fan of Whedon and his TV shows and movies, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. If you are a Shakespeare fan there are likely better versions of Much Ado, but the personal approach puts a unique spin on it.

This is Whedon’s way as an artist of breaking up superhero blockbusters and having a good time while showing his love for the craft. For all those reasons, Much Ado About Nothing is absolutely worth something. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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