Avengers director? Truly there’s more
From Buffy and Firefly creator;
Doc Horrible guy delivers this score:
Shakespeare as good as the Globe Theater.
It’s summer time and love is in the air. Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), a prince, is coming to stay in Messina after a successful campaign in battle. Leonato (Clark Gregg), governor of the area, is thrilled to host him and his men, including Count Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof). Claudio has eyes for Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese), and tells his pal Benedick, who, as a dedicated bachelor, informs Claudio of his foolishness. After all, Benedick has enough to worry about with his constant verbal sparring with the shrewish Beatrice (Amy Acker), Hero’s cousin.
Don Pedro agrees to woo his host’s daughter on Claudio’s behalf at the upcoming masquerade ball. But his illegitimate brother, Don John (Sean Maher), bastard by birth and behavior, convinces Claudio that the good prince’s intentions are not noble indeed. Nevertheless, the match is made and, in the spirit of love, Leonato, Claudio, Don Pedro and Hero all agree to play collective Cupid and match Benedick and Beatrice. But don’t count the dastardly bastard out just yet; duplicitous Don John has another trick up his sleeve and we have yet to see if all’s well that ends well.
Joss Whedon, beloved writer/director of The Avengers and co-writer/producer of The Cabin in the Woods, must have felt the need to downshift for a bit and the result is this noir gem with the original Shakespearean dialog in a modern setting. Fair warning, as with any Shakespearean work, it takes a few minutes to adjust to the dialog and its pace. Shot in just shy of two weeks at Whedon’s Santa Monica home, the film is a masterpiece of minimalism and beats the pants off of the hackneyed melodrama that was Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Much Ado gets the chuckles with its comedy and tugs on the heartstrings just as ably. It’s the little quirks of modern society — watch for the fist-bump — interspersed throughout that really make the movie.
Joining Whedon on this mission is some of his usual cast of characters. Acker — an Angel, Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods alum — is sublime as the sexy and sassy Beatrice. Denisof — also from Angel, Dollhouse and Buffy — is just as effective as her opposite, the determined bachelor Benedick. Gregg is the type of actor that seems born for Shakespeare and he doesn’t disappoint as the charming Leonato; we’d expect nothing less from Agent Phil Colson. Morgese does well as Hero in what is her first real gig after Whedon plucked her from obscurity as an uncredited extra on The Avengers. The standout performance has to go to Reed Diamond. Maybe it’s his relatively dim star power that makes his acting shine so bright in this production. Maybe it’s the reviewer’s fondness for his character on Judging Amy. Whatever the reason, his turn as Don Pedro is inspired.
Much Ado About Nothing is a satisfying must-see; it’s sure to make you fall in love as easily as its characters do.