Much Ado about Nothing

Movie Review #790: Not only is Kenneth Branagh’s vibrant direction present in this adaptation, but the cast seems to have a strong love for their parts as well.

By Red Stewart

Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated PG-13 (contains suggestive dialogue, mild sexual content)
111 minutes

It’s great when you get a director like Kenneth Branagh to handle the complexity and often times dullness of Shakespeare. I’m not saying that Shakespeare wasn’t a good writer, but his use of iambic pentameter made him famous at the cost of fluidity, coherence, and most importantly power. Characters may deliver long, well-wrought speeches, but unless the speaker is fluent in public rhetoric, it makes the whole thing meaningless.

However, whenever Kenneth Branagh, a thespian with a strong love for the English playwright, gets involved, you know that there is nothing to fear as the man is a genius at drawing the right atmosphere out of long sentences. “Much Ado about Nothing” isn’t as recognized as Branagh’s adaptations of “Hamlet” or “Henry V”, but it benefits strongly from a cast that seems to have as much adoration for their characters as Branagh does for the whole material.

To be honest, I can’t really describe the plot because it’s another one of those multilayered tales Shakespeare is known to spin. There’s a couple that wants to get married (played by Robert Sean Leonard and Kate Beckinsale). However, the evil Don Jon (Keanu Reeves) wants to ruin all happiness around him, and successfully causes them to break up through his manipulations. There’s also another romantic yarn between the misogynistic Benedick (Branagh) and the feminist Beatrice (Emma Thompson), and there’s some other thing going on with a drunken constable named Dogberry (Michael Keaton).

As you can tell, it’s a film that needs multiple viewings (or a good understanding of the source material) to truly appreciate, but what’s clearly shown is that everyone seems to be having so much fun in this film. It reminded me of Jim Carrey’s performance in “The Mask” to give you an idea of what I mean, where you could tell that Carrey was having a blast going all zany with his superpowers. For that reason alone, “Much Ado about Nothing” is very entertaining.

The biggest criticism I found among mainstream critics was Keanu Reeves, and it’s hard to argue in his defense when he was nominated for the Worst Supporting Actor Razzie. All I’ll say is that it’s one of those “so bad, it’s good” performances, and given that the movie is a comedy, he fits well enough (in my opinion).

I very much liked “Much Ado about Nothing”. If you’re looking for lucidity, you won’t find it unless you’re a Shakespeare aficionado. If you’re looking for some good, smart fun, then this is your movie. ✴


2 thoughts on “Much Ado about Nothing

  1. Good review/ Just wondering, have you ever tried out Branagh’s version of “Henry V”? I’ve also been meaning to see his own version of “Hamlet”, but from what I’ve heard it’s… rather long.

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