While some may balk at the thought of settling down to a big heaping helping of Shakespeare, there’s a little extra sauce to Lionsgate’s “Much Ado About Nothing”–a copy of which they sent out for review–that will make this one a little extra special. That sauce is none other than Joss Whedon, but can the Whedonverse make a Shakespeare romance a little better off for modern viewers?
“Much Ado About Nothing” gives us the classic tale from the immortal bard, as Beatrice and Benedick, a pair of bickering lovers, attempt to come to terms with their feelings about each other, giving us a look at all the tragedy, all the joy, and even the absurdity that goes into the thing called love. Meanwhile, off to the side, another couple–Claudio and Hero–is showing a completely different breed of love, the kind that generally can’t bring either part of it to speak around the other. But watching the two sets of lovers come together–albeit in completely different ways–is half the fun of this affair.
Granted, romance isn’t new for Whedon. We all remember “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog,” not to mention “Angel” and “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” But this is fundamentally different; this is Whedon romance as romance, not as part of a larger mix. It was one thing to watch a Whedon romance with an evil horse running an evil syndicate, or with vampires roaming around or while zipping through space. But this…this is just romance. And in black and white, no less. It’s a bit like the nineties release of “Romeo and Juliet,” using the original dialogue but with modern-era set pieces. Of course, it’s significantly more lighthearted than its predecessor, but still.
Thankfully, the result is not particularly unpleasant. Everyone is handling the clunky antiquities of Shakespearean dialogue well, that made perfect sense in their day but now come out of left field. This is not going to be for everyone. Those hoping for a ghost or a vampire or an evil horse or Fornicus or Reavers or anything else to show up are going to be catastrophically disappointed. Many will find this dull beyond all reckoning, but that’s not Whedon’s fault, that’s more the material. This is no suspenseful “Hamlet,” no vicious “MacBeth.” There are plenty of fun moments in here, though the lacunae between those moments can be a bit of a trial. The second half picks up considerably, and should be a decent payoff for a slower start.
Special features here include a set of featurettes about the movie, including a making-of featurette, a set of commentary tracks–one for Whedon himself and one for Whedon along with the cast–as well as a music video for the song “Sigh No More.” Further, we’ll get our choice of English or Spanish audio tracks and the same choice in subtitles, as well as trailers for “Mud,” “Stories We Tell,” “The Bling Ring,” “Shakespeare in Love,” and a preview reel for the Epix network.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is certainly a departure from the standard Whedon fare, and though it will hardly be for everyone, it will still have some fun built into it, and a reasonably good time should be had by most.