film review: much ado about nothing

what happens when joss whedon takes on shakespeare.

by rebecca willa davis

You want an honest review of Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon's modern day spin on the Shakespeare classic? OK, how about this: I spent the first 10 minutes having no idea what was going on.

Yes, I've read the original. And sure, I knew that the acclaimed--yes, if you created/wrote/directed Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you're worthy of that title--director shot the entire thing in black and white over the course of 12 days at his home in Santa Monica. And yet, there's still some shock in seeing people dressed as we dress, living as we live, speaking in ye olde English. Call me a pleb, but it took a bit to shake off the ninth grade English cobwebs and start computing the dialogue.

But once that happened, the movie becomes a complete pleasure. It's charming without being cute, droll without being annoyingly clever, and fast-paced without leaving you behind (except those first few scenes, I'll admit). The movie explores love--why we fall in it, why we avoid it, why we're manipulated by it--and manages to make the original plot feel both contemporary and timeless at the same time.

You'll see a few familiar faces--that's Buffy's Alexis Denisof as Benedick--as well as a lot of new ones (unless you watched Angel, you may not know Amy Acker, who plays Beatrice, or Jillian Morgese, who's Hero. But star power's besides the point; Shakespeare never needed it, and neither does Whedon. As for a quick first-five-minutes recap? That you may need.

Much Ado About Nothing opens in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco starting Frfiday June 7, and nationwide June 21.