Netflix UK / Blu-ray film review: Much Ado About Nothing
Ian Loring | On 03, Oct 2013
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker
Watch Much Ado About Nothing online in the UK: Netflix UK, iTunes, blinkbox, Film4oD, Virgin Media on Demand, EE
The result of a director blowing off steam in a worryingly busy way, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is a charming and endearing effort, fizzing with the laid-back energy of a bunch of friends getting together and having a laugh – something that is both to the benefit and slight detriment of the overall film.
Building upon readings of Shakespeare plays performed at Whedon’s own home, this version of Shakespeare’s play is heightened considerably by the easy chemistry had between its stars. As will-they-won’t-they leads Benedick and Beatrice, Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker bring a great deal of charm, both headstrong and oblivious to their obvious faults but so utterly likeable you laugh along with their prat-falling. Denisof, in particular, has a marvellously physical, comedic edge to some of his scenes and by the end you will want to see them together – even if, in the nicest way, it’s just to smack their heads.
It’s to the films ever so slight fault that with these two being so good, some of the other cast wilt when they should be a lot more prominent. Sean Maher’s Don John has a sleaziness to him, which is effective, but the hate his villain is supposed to feel never really comes off, being more like a cut-price Loki than anything more. Reed Diamond’s Don Pedro also doesn’t have the presence you long for either, given his standing in society. The idea of Fran Kranz playing “the romantic hero” as Claudio also feels like a bit of a stretch at times, especially when compared to Denisof.
The other elements of the cast are solid, though: Clark Gregg is his usual relaxed but still somewhat serious-minded self and Jilliam Morgese as Hero – in what is essentially her first role – is an effervescent presence, in whom you can understand why Claudio sees so much.
Still, Whedon and Shakespeare feel like a match made in heaven. The dialogue zaps and pops just as it does in the man’s best work while never feeling actually Whedon-esque. Instead, he lets the material do the talking, but with the rhythms from his own brain. The play’s aspects of making light of potentially dark fare is also very much in Whedon’s wheelhouse. The film is full of it, especially in the last act.
Much Ado About Nothing is a light confection of a film, one that will not likely linger in the memory, but you suspect this was intended. It’s a bunch of friends getting together and having fun and that mood seeps out of the film, making sure the audience has a good time throughout.
Arriving on Blu-ray, the film benefits from a decent transfer showcasing the film’s lovely black and white cinematography, along with a DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack which doesn’t do all that much with bass or the surround channels but does the job it needs to. Extras on the disc are somewhat thin on the ground, though: Whedon himself does his typical motormouth thing in a commentary, being informative and slightly piss-taking all the way through. The film’s trailer is also included.
Much Ado About Nothing is available on Netflix UK as part of a £6.99 monthly subscription.