I am a geek for all seasons. A movie geek, comic geek, book geek, tv geek and yes a Shakespeare geek. As someone who embraces my femininity, strength and natural nerdiness I of course worship at the altar of Joss Whedon, producer, director, writer and geek provocateur. These things taken together add up me dying to see his version of “Much Ado About Nothing”.
Right out of the gate I was smiling because there in the credits were all my old friends, Mal, Fred, Wesley, Simon, Topher and Agent Coulson. Of course they went by their muggle names, Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Sean Maher, Fran Kranz and Clark Gregg. It was like seeing my buddies put on a play in their backyard. Of course the backyard was actually Joss Whedon’s beautiful house but still the feeling was there.
The movie was made in 12 days at Whedon’s place. In between the end of shooting on Avengers and the editing of that film. Joss needed to decompress so he gathered some friends and played. Being actors, the way they played was to act and what better play to play with than one of Shakespeare’s comedies.
“Much Ado” is a bit of a dark comedy for Shakespeare. Maher plays a power player who wishes to destroy someone else’s happiness for the thrill of it. No other real motivation is given for his acts, there is some reference to class issues but even he doesn’t seem to take them that seriously. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof are the heart of the film as the bickering non-couple, Beatrice and Benedict, who you know from the beginning are made for each other. Whedon shows us a history there that gives their bickering more heat. Fran Kranz and Jillian Morghese play Claudio and Hero, the more innocent, romantic couple who are the focus of Maher’s evil plot.
The modern setting works well for me as costumes can become distracting. This lets the actors be the focus. The whole thing is played as a screwball comedy, with sex being a major player. This is a very sexy Shakespeare and it works extremely well with the story being told. The actors are fantastic, the dialogue sounds completely natural coming from their mouths. Quick, quippy and biting. It was so good my son and I were trading one liners from it like we do with modern comedies and action films. They are so good at what they do, that within the first few minutes the language sounds almost normal to the ear, not at all what it sounded like when read aloud in English class.
Shakespeare is always better performed than read and this snappy, quickly put together version with a bunch of “television actors” is absolutely one of the most fun film versions I’ve seen of any Shakespeare play. If you’re not a big fan of Shakespeare give it a try anyway, the physical comedy of Acker and Denisof alone is worth the price of admission but I bet you’ll find yourself laughing in all the right parts in spite of yourself.