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Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare knew how to throw a party.

Joss Whedon’s impact on youth culture is already hard to overestimate. Now he’s made the first great contemporary Shakespeare since Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Not that it’s just for the kids –the serious theatre crowd, too, should extend this warm embrace. The concept is not so incongruous: Whedon is one of the few blockbuster filmmakers who also has a semi-rep acting company. Small-name regulars from ‘Buffy’, ‘Angel’ and ‘Firefly’ reel off blank verse in the director’s own LA mansion (the open-plan architecture makes for easy eavesdropping, as well as minimal budget). He shoots the play like an episode of ‘Desperate Housewives’ – an especially farcical one, in black and white, without an eye on the ad breaks, and with a script by Shaky. A distracting lounge remix of ‘Sigh No More, Ladies’ aside, it couldn’t be a better match. Arch innovations such as checking smartphones for lists of returning soldiers rarely jar or feel gimmicky. There are lovely touches barely related to the makeover: Benedick and Claudio must bunk down in a young girl’s bedroom, all stuffed toys and Barbie hardware. There’s a smoky jazz soundtrack, big on bass, sounding for all the world like an extended ‘Seinfeld’ sting, which helps keep things perky. But Whedon’s key coup is in simply directing a very good version of the play. He’s got a keen ear for comedy, a no-nonsense approach to ditching the gags that don’t work, a deft hand for slapstick and an eagerness to use it. Just as with last summer’s surprise smash (The Avengers), he assembled a crack squad of a cast, then dispatched them with purpose. The vain-glory and the self-delusion of his leads is beautifully done by both Alexis Denisof (Benedick) and Amy Acker (Beatrice); Whedon adds a one-night stand flashback that lends strange credence to their bruised egos and prickly banter. 'Much Ado' may be a bit of a B+ staple on the Shakespeare circuit, but Whedon – as well as improving student grades the world over – makes it feel second to none. – Catherine Shoard, The Guardian Official Trailer
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Directed by: 
Joss Whedon
Running Time: 
108
Country(ies): 
U.S.A.
Language: 
English
Starring: 
Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Franz Kanz, Jillian Morgese
Screenplay by: 
Based on the play by William Shakespeare

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