The other night as I was scanning through my boyfriend’s Netflix, because let us be honest ain’t nobody buy their own Netflix, after my second or third roundabout through the hundred or so uninspiring titles, I came across a very curious treasure. Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing directed by none other than my homeboy Joss Whedon. Needless to say in full loyal fangirl manner, I gave it a go, and it is this title that is the subject of this week’s review!
All right, now where do we begin. Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most well known comedies, and follows the episodic love charades of two star couples: the sassy Benedick and Beatrice and their innocent counterparts Claudio and Hero.
I must first of all say that I cannot help but laugh every time I watch a Whedon production, because his very elite handful of cronies is the most ridiculous and adorable aspect of his film making. For those of you who are not familiar with this concept, Joss Whedon has a small circle of actors, whom I can only assume are on speed dial, that he uses for most of his pieces.
This means that in Much Ado About Nothing there appear cameos by Dr. Horrible’s Captain Hammer/Firefly’s Mal, Dollhouse’s Dr. Saunders, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s Agent Coulson, Buffy’s Andrew Wells, as well as countless others. Needless to say, it is a fantastic conglomeration of Whedon’s best characters which makes for an awkward couple of minutes to adjust to their new roles.
The setting is likewise a gem in and of itself. Originally written by Mr. Shakespeare to be set in Italy, Whedon takes a more modern approach setting the entire film in his own home in Santa Monica, California (of which I am now sure Whedonistas everywhere are Google Map stalking the crap out of).
Even more interesting, if the promise of an all exclusive Cribs view of Whedon’s home is not enough to pique your interest, Whedon likewise decided to do the film completely in black and white.
This along with many of the other creative choices that Whedon made in this film are weird, creative, and very him. For instance, the promotional picture of Claudio in a pool, in a snorkel, with a martini is nothing short of ridiculous. To this effect Whedon commented to Entertainment Weekly, “For the love of God, if you have a pool overlooking beautiful mountains and trees and you are doing party scene in a modern-day Shakespeare, and you don’t have someone in a snorkel and martini, then you should be fired.”
The hilarity and obscene liberties that Whedon takes are very exciting, and overall I very much appreciated his taking liberty with the characters and likewise giving some raunchy back story that suggests a deeper reason for Beatrice and Benedick’s disdain for one another. However, this coming from a girl who wants Baz Luhrmann to publicly apologize for the disgrace he made of Romeo and Juliet, Whedon stays true to Shakespearean form, and in the end does no harm to what is a wonderful story.
Nevertheless, there were some shortcomings in the film that were disappointing. Full disclosure, I honestly do not think that any rendition of Much Ado About Nothing can hold a candle to David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s stage performance back in 2011. In their performance, I was crying from laughing so hard, whereas Whedon, while implementing a few funny scenes, overall makes the film more of a sappy romance than the comedy that it was originally intended to be.
Another fair point to make is that Shakespeare spoken in “Modern times” sounds hammy if you let it sound hammy, and Alexis Denisof, who plays Benedick and is probably most commonly recognized as Sandy Rivers from How I Met Your Mother, makes for a twelve inch ham sandwich on asiago cheesy bread in his role as Benedick.
I do not know what angle Whedon and Denisof were going for in their portrayal of Benedick, but honestly I just could not handle his character in the slightest, and found his lines both forced and unconvincing. Perhaps unfairly so, I could not help but pull a Harry Potter call out of “How DARE you stand where he stood,” in regard to his predecessor David Tennant’s flawless yet still purposefully hammy portrayal of Benedick. An unfair comparison? You betcha, but honestly if Matt Smith could do it there are no excuses.
All in all, in spite of some casting and the annoying moody/sappiness, it was an overall okay film. Not my favorite piece by Mr. Whedon, but still the worst of his pieces is better than the best of most directors (sorry but I am a Scooby for life). Yet honestly if you are considering watching the movie, I would suggest watching Tennant and Tate’s performance instead.
-If one is not loyal to ones fandoms, what meaning is there to life?
-Obvious first-time Shakespeare actors
-IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A COMEDY