Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mini movie review: Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon version)

Have you seen Joss Whedon's passion project, Much Ado About Nothing, shot over three weeks on location at Whedon's house during a break in Avengers production?  Has anyone, outside of the festival circuit?  Despite having read too much about it, I was eager to see it, what with the cast being filled with Whedonverse regulars: Amy Acker (Angel, Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods), Alexix Denisof (Buffy, Angel), Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Buffy, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog), Clark Gregg (Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Reed Diamond (Dollhouse), Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods), Tom Lenk (Buffy, Angel, Cabin in the Woods), Whatsisname (Simon on Firefly) - kind of like catching up with old friends.

This iteration of Shakespeare's clever play is a mixed bag.  It's beautiful, shot in gorgeous black and white, the characters swanning around Whedon's stunning home wearing lovely clothes and drinking cocktails and wine.  Seriously: I don't think Amy Acker's Beatrice is ever shown without a drink in her hand.  The problem, of course, lies with the fact that many of these actors have never done Shakespeare before and some of them struggle with it, reciting their lines but seeming not to know whereof they speak.  Clark Gregg is quite good as Leonato, and Reed Diamond and Acker acquit themselves fairly well. Fillion is very funny as the buffoon Dogberry but many of his line readings are mushy; similarly, Lenk speaks so softly that you can scarcely tell what he's saying.  Denisof as Benedick and Kranz as Claudio are passable but they play everything extremely angry ... until Benedick decides he's in love and then Denisof is just a goofball.

This version suffers mightily in comparison to Kenneth Branaugh's MAAN, which for me remains the definitive popular movie version (even with Keanu Reeves as Don John.)  Still, it was fun to see all the Whedon-show alums and certainly a pleasant enough way to spend 100 minutes.

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