There's something jarring about the opening scene of director Joss Whedon's (The Avengers) take on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, which opens Friday at the Cedar-Lee Theatre. A group of men in business suits emerge from a caravan of limousines to convene in a kitchen and discuss family matters. Nothing too strange there, but when they break into Elizabethan English, it's a shock to the system and it takes a minute to catch on to just what the hell is going on.
Whedon reportedly had the idea to take on Much Ado About Nothing after hosting informal Shakespeare readings at his Santa Monica home, where he set this film. Almost as if assuming his viewers don't have a casual knowledge of the play, Whedon quickly cuts to the chase and we soon learn that Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker) have a thing for each other, but they're trying to keep it under wraps. And we then realize that Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese) also have a thing for each other but they do want everyone to know. A comedy of mistaken intentions and manipulations (with much more sex than you'll find in the play) ensues.
The whole thing comes off a bit amateurish (perhaps intentionally so, since Whedon shot the whole thing in a mere 12 days), but despite the modernization, the movie does retain an appreciation for the clever wordplay and double entendres that are at the heart of the play. (Jeff Niesel)