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Joss Whedon‘s always had a thing for Shakespeare, staging readings of the Bard’s plays at his house with the help of his many actor friends. What better way to spend some of that sweet Avengers money, than by putting that love up on the big screen? Cue his latest film, Much Ado About Nothing.

The Players:

  • Director: Joss Whedon
  • Writers: William Shakespeare and Joss Whedon
  • Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz, Clark Gregg, Nathan Fillion, Reed Diamond, Sean Maher, Jillian Morges, Tom Lenk
  • Cinematography: Jay Hunter
  • Original Music by: Joss Whedon

The Plot:

One of Shakespeare’s classic comedies, ostensibly about the fraught courtship of Claudio (Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese), the real main attraction is the love-hate relationship between Benedick (Denisof) and Beatrice (Acker). The couple can’t stop mocking each other long enough to realize how in love they are. During a gathering at the palatial home of Leonato (Gregg), a dizzying sequence of masked balls, botched weddings, mistaken identities and lighthearted treachery unfolds.

The Good:

  • Nothing like a classic: The source material, as always, is delightful, with fantastic wordplay and the right amount of melodrama and intrigue. Hearing the cast really have fun with the iambic pantameter is a blast. Whedon smartly updates the proceedings by making everyone tipsy for the most part. That boozy air adds enough believability to make Shakespeare’s plots and double-crossings work in a modern setting.
  • Nice digs: Maybe it was to save on location fees, maybe he didn’t want to travel far, or maybe he just wanted to show off, but Whedon shot Much Ado About Nothing in his own Los Angeles home. And what a nice home it is.

The Bad:

  • It’s all in the casting: The cast is filled with familiar Whedonverse faces, which is unsurprising and a nice touch, as Whedon’s known for his loyalty. Said loyalty trips him up in at least one case. The film’s only real weak link is Denisof, miscast as the irascible, love-averse Benedick. He may be a great friend and a Buffy/Angel alum, but Denisoff doesn’t have what it takes for this. Whedon had a much better Benedick there in Nathan Fillion. Or why not Clark Gregg, who quietly outshines his co-stars when it comes to mastering Shakespeare?
  • What’s wrong with a little color?: Whedon’s Much Ado is a modernized take on Shakespeare, though just how modern isn’t clear. The cars look contemporary, but there are elements that make it feel more ’60s, ’70s and ’80s at times. His choice to shoot in black and white doesn’t necessarily help matters — and doesn’t add much either.

Overall:

Whedon’s passion project is a high-brow delight, despite a casting misstep or two.

The Rating: 7/10

Much Ado About Nothing opens in theaters June 7.

Photo Gallery:

 

Trailer:

Will you be seeing Much Ado About Nothing this weekend?