Joss Whedon, creator of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and recently Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, is probably most famous for the action feature The Avengers with Robert Downey Jr and many others. When he had some time off after filming the previously named movie, he was supposed to go to Italy with his wife Kai. However... Joss can't sit still. Because in those two weeks off, he decided to film his dream project: Much Ado About Nothing.
Much Ado About Nothing is modern version of Shakespeare’s play with the same title. The story remains mostly unadapted, except for the opening which includes a 'one-night-stand’ with Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof). Some time later they meet again in her uncle's house, Leonato (Clark Gregg); Now Benedick is fiercly against marriage and Beatrice against men. But Leonato has more guests. His own daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese), falls in love with Claudio (Fran Kranz), friend of Benedick and Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) – to whom Hero is engaged/betrothed. The most dangerous guest, however, is Don John (Sean Maher), brother of Don Pedro, who wants nothing more than destroy the happiness of others.
You don't mess with classics. That's a message Whedon clearly understood. Even though the ‘one night stand’ is a small adaptation, the dialogue remains mainly unchanged. While Shakespearean English may be hard to understand, especially for those who didn't get English literature in high school, the story is understandable. The fact that ‘Old English’ is the spoken language in this movie, it doesn't have to be something to hold you back. de gesproken taal is, hoeft absoluut geen drempel te zijn. The quick dialogue is so energetic that you're simply taken by the actors emotions and actions. Other than that the story in itself is a classic filled with comedy, drama and exciting.
An extraordinary filmlocation
For the entirety of the movie they only used one location. You kinda have to when you shoot the entire thing in just twelve days. Joss used his own house for this, which can been seen as a character itself in teh story. It's a beautiful mansion, full of stairs, a large kitchen, and many rooms big enough to host a party. Not to mention the beautiful view from the garden. More than a (castle of a) house isn't necessary for the story. The many plotlines all have a the space to develop, from the many secret get togethers and conconting plans in back rooms, up to the staircases and windows from where the characters can eavesdrop. It creates a dynamic play between the many actors and storylines. A big bonus to the Whedonians themselves (fans of the works of Joss) is that they get to see the house where the 'genius' himself lives and where many of his works came into existence.
The Whedon family
For Whedonians such as myself, this movie is one big party. Whedon has drum op his actors and crew from most of the tv shows and movies where he worked on. Which means: Lots of familiar faces, with whom he - while his tv shows were still on air - used to have Shakespeare readings at his home. And then to think that most of them only had little to no experience in Shakespearean theatre. That they know how to convey the story to the audience - even when Shakespearian can't have been an easy language to speak - is admirable. Everyone knows just what their characters needs: From the puppy dog eyes between Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese, to the cold stare from Sean Maher, the funny dynamic between Tom Lenk and Nathan Fillion to the sneaky planning of Clark Gregg and Reed Diamond. There's no moment where their performance falters. The most enchanting performance however is from Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof. They can open their box of skills and completely let themselves go: From slapstick comedy to drama. These two know how to bring this love story in an entirely new way and let you enjoy the whims which go hand in hand with being smitten.
(FYI: A couple of other known faces are Romy Rosemont, Riki Lindhome, Ashley Johnson)
With tears in your eyes
Comedies are always tricky. Especially when you use an old language that few people will understand/be able to follow. Whedon understood that Shakespeare's work never fades. The jokes are just as funny, but even more important is how you bring them. And this is where Whedon's Much Ado excells. You'll have tears in your eyes from laughing because this Much Ado About Nothing is funnier than you've ever seen before. If you've seen the Kenneth Brannagh version, you'll probably compare the two. But these movies are beyond comparison. Whedon and his actors bring humor to a new level by using the location and the talents of the actors to the max. Whether it's Denisof' singing or Acker's and Denisof's clumpsiness in the garden and kitchen. Nothing is funnier then when these two are trying to eavesdrop on conversations about each other while sneaking through the house.
Back to black (and white)
It may seem as a contradiction to film this movie in black and white when you want to tell a classic story in a modern way. It's a risky choice of style, but in this case it absolutely works. Because it high lights the timelessness ofthe story and accentuates both the location as the acting. The white fades in between the scenes falls in line with this style perfectly as it makes for a sublte transition, without abruptly jumping from scene to scene. It all fits perfectly together which is a joy to see.
Alright, I admit it: I'm partially biased. Joss Whedon is a genius and hero in my book and can't really make mistakes. But aside from that Much Ado About Nothing is one of the best movies I've seen in the past years. It has all the right ingredients: A great cast, a fantastic script that can make you laugh, cry, scared, but mostly takes you up in it's story. That Whedon chose this style, and the location as well as using the original Shakespearean dialogue, enhances all the aspects that made the play a succes. The modern twist (contemporary clothing, home, cell phones and setting) provides a fresh look on the story and shows that love stories like these remain timeless. It doens't really happen that right after watching a movie I want to see it again, but after seeing Much Ado I knew right away that I could watch this movie at least ten times more. Much Ado About Nothing is without question the must-see of the year!
What is a dvd without extra's? There aren't too many extra's on this dvd, but it does include a commentary by Joss Whedon himself. In his eyes his Much Ado About Nothing is simply the latest version and not THE version. There have been many versions before and he knows there will be after. Without giving too much away, there are several subjects that he talks about. You get to learn about a lot of fun facts of the movie, such as it being a home party for Joss Whedon and like the fact that the children's room was actually pink. Therefore a black and white filter wasn't really all that strange. Whedonians will also love some of the comments, like how Fillion plays a little Captain Hammer in his role. He also explains his choices in the movie itself. For instance about how he didn't understand everything Shakespeare wrote and to make sense of it, it sometimes contains changes to the script.
Other than that my edition also contained some Limited Edition Art Cards which are a nice little something extra. As for the dvd details: the menu is very dynamic with moving pictures and the dvd contains the commentary as well as a trailer of the movie. You could also choose to use the audio description, which pretty much tells everything that's happening on screen. And if you'd like to just watch a particlar scene, you can do so easily with the scene selection.
If you're still not sure if you'd like to watch this movie, than I end my review the trailer, to have you decide for yourself ;-)