In Much Ado About Nothing Prince Don Pedro and his men are returning from battle. On their way home they stop at the home of Leonato.
Claudio is enamored of Leonato’s beautiful, innocent daughter Hero and desires to marry her. His compatriot Benedick has sworn off marriage. He becomes engaged instead in a battle of wit and will against Hero’s cousin Beatrice. Don Pedro manages to arrange a wedding between Claudio and Hero. Feeling confident of his skills he proclaims to his men that he will play matchmaker for the combative Benedick and Beatrice.
With a little help from his men and Beatrice’s family the two are tricked into believing they both truly love each other. In the meantime Don Pedro’s malicious brother Don John plots to stop the marriage between Claudio and Hero as a means of revenge.
Confession time -I find Shakespeare intimidating. Though his plays were required reading during my school years, I found the language a barrier to understanding the story. However, I have realized that to truly appreciate Shakespeare’s genius it helps to watch his plays performed.
If you have struggled as I have to enjoy Shakespeare, then Much Ado About Nothing is a great introduction. I have yet to tackle some of his darker dramas like Macbeth or Hamlet. But I can always appreciate a good comedy, especially if it features witty dialogue as this one does.
The opening scenes set in the countryside during an Italian summer predisposed me to enjoy the film. Although it took me a couple of minutes to become accustomed to the Shakespearean language, after that I had no problems understanding the plot.
Much Ado about Nothing is populated with many well-known and respected actors including Emma Thompson, a very young Kate Beckinsale, British stalwart Imelda Staunton, Michael Keaton, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, Robert Sean Leonard and Kenneth Branaugh. Denzel is not an actor I would have thought to cast in a Shakespeare play. However, he nails his part as the responsible but playful prince Cupid. As expected the other actors do a fabulous job bringing the characters to life. However, I did think Keanu Reeves was a bit wooden as the villain of the piece.
I also must mention Michael Keaton’s brilliance in a small role as the witless local constable. He is both revolting and intriguing as the man who unknowingly manages to interfere with Don John’s revenge on his brother. Of course the fact that he also unknowingly reminds me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail by pretending to ride invisible horses endears me to his character.
Of course, if you are going to bring Shakespeare to the screen it doesn’t hurt to have a director who truly loves the Bard. Kenneth Branaugh is one such man. He not only stars in this film, but succeeds in translating the story from print to screen. This is not his first effort in such an endeavor and I will be seeking out his other Shakespearean films.
Of the very few Shakespeare plays I’ve seen on film, I think this one may be my favorite so far. Even though it’s a comedy, it is not without its’ share of drama. Unlike, some of his other plays, no one does anything ridiculously stupid (like a double suicide). Also, the attitude towards women is not as offensive as I’ve seen. All in all, I really enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing and would recommend it as a great starter film to familiarize viewers with the great English playwright.
Where to Watch: DVD or rent on Amazon, Apple or Google Play.