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Review: Joss Whedon’s Verily Updated ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (VIDEO)

Review: Joss Whedon's Verily Updated 'Much Ado About Nothing' (VIDEO)

A healthy dose of disrespect keeps Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado
About Nothing” from toppling into the swamp of sensibilities that so often
swallows up Shakespeare updates – those well-intentioned “reimaginings” that
put a cast in new clothes and new attitudes, and thus render the dialogue even
dustier than it already might seem (at least to audiences who wouldn’t go to an
Elizabethan play without the barrel of a revolver stuck up their collective

Even for
Shakespeare fans, such updating can have a deleterious effect, creating
cognitive distance where there shouldn’t be any: Shakespeare is nothing if not
modern, something “Much Ado” makes abundantly clear. And of which Whedon is
abundantly aware.

Can we use the word
MILF on this blog? No? OK never mind. Amy Acker is just one of the splendid
cast populating this Shakespearean burlesque, most of whom Whedon has drafted
from earlier projects: Acker (“Cabin in the Woods”) and Alexis Denisof
(“Angel”) play the world’s original, blisteringly bickering lovers, Beatrice
and Benedick, whose clever dissing of each other masks – verily — a profound
and barely concealable lust. 

Fran Kranz (“Cabin,” “Dollhouse”) and ravishing
newcomer Jillian Morgese (who had a bit part in Whedon’s “The Avengers”) are
Claudio and Hero, the besotted lovers around whom all else revolves. Clark
Gregg (“Avengers”) is Hero’s father, Leonato, and Sean Maher is Don John, the
“bastard prince” who sets up the masquerade that convinces Claudio that Hero is
untrue — and the mechanism by which Beatrice and Benedick finally get down to

The film, which has
been doing the festival circuit since premiering at Toronto last fall, was shot in 12 days on the fly, on the cheap at Whedon’s L.A. home and on the sly (actors were forbidden
to tweet about it, apparently). While the film’s B&W imagery seems to
aspire to the cinematographic magnificence of an old Calvin Klein ad, an
allegiance to Shakespeare is married — marriage being the whole point of the
story — to a consistently creative use of physical comedy, an irresistible
cast, and an informal sensibility that’s precisely the opposite of what
audiences generally expect from their Bard. It’s fun, in other words — no
other words really being necessary.

Check out the film’s trailer and the New York Times “Anatomy of a Scene” featurette below.

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