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(2013) (Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof) (PG-13)

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Comedy: A pair of anti-love singles are tricked into falling in love, all while others attempt to sabotage an upcoming wedding.
Leonato (CLARK GREGG) is the governor of Messina and is pleased to host his friend, Don Pedro (REED DIAMOND), at his estate following Don Pedro's victorious campaign over his traitorous brother, Don John (SEAN MAHER). Don Pedro is accompanied by two of his officers, Benedick (ALEXIS DENISOF) and Claudio (FRAN KRANZ), with the latter instantly falling in love with Leonato's daughter, Hero (JILIAN MORGESE). That results in hastily arranged marriage plans, something confirmed bachelor Benedick and Hero's confirmed bachelorette cousin Beatrice (AMY ACKER) believe to be masochistic foolishness.

Seeing that those two get along like cats and dogs, the others playfully attempt to manipulate them into falling love. Unbeknownst to them, however, Don John -- who's arrived with his allies Borachio (SPENCER TREAT CLARK) and Conrade (RIKI LINDHOME) -- is plotting to ruin Claudio and Hero's pending nuptials by involving her maid, Margaret (ASHLEY JOHNSON). Sensing that someone is up to no good, estate security officer Dogberry (NATHAN FILLION) and his bumbling team try to get to the bottom of that plot, all while Benedick and Beatrice do indeed start to fall for one another.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Despite minoring in theater many moons ago in college and thus reading and/or seeing many of his plays, it still takes me a bit to get acclimated to the writing and words of William Shakespeare. It doesn't matter if it's one of the Bard's dramas or comedies, as once I've focused my eyes on the words in print or had the dialogue spoken by actors on the stage or in film hit my ears, it takes around ten or so minutes before it starts to make sense. It's somewhat akin to watching a movie featuring characters with thick Irish brogues -- I know they're speaking English, but the first bits of dialogue are lost on me.

Such was the case upon seeing the latest cinematic adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing," Shakespeare's romantic comedy about love, deception, and the mingling of the two. Despite being one of his more highly regarded comedic works, the tale was brought to the big screen for the first time by Kenneth Branagh back in 1993, with twenty years passing before being tackled once again by a director one normally wouldn't automatically associate with Shakespeare.

And that would be none other than Joss Whedon. While not as well known by name as say Steven Spielberg or James Cameron, Whedon has had a devoted following ever since his days with TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." They arrived en masse -- and apparently brought all of their family and friends -- to a little film released last year. That, of course, was "The Avengers," and with a worldwide gross north of $1.5 billion, Whedon can now obviously make pretty much any movie he wants with whatever budget he deems fit.

Granted, his take on "Much Ado" was shot before the meteoric success of that team superhero flick, but it's about as far removed from the spectacle as one can imagine. Reportedly shot in just 12 days at Whedon's home for what I'm guessing was far less than the cost of a 30 second commercial for his last offering, the film features the filmmaker's friends (and cast members of his various former works) performing the story in a contemporary setting. With most if not all of the original dialogue. And in black and white.

While the flick obviously won't come anywhere remotely close to even being in the same box office universe as "The Avengers," the director's diehard fans will obviously enjoy geeking out seeing the Whedon team in play and working together, while Shakespearean fans and purists will likely delight at this slightly revised take on the centuries old tale. Once I became acclimated to the dialogue once again, I enjoyed the offering.

Considering it was written more than 400 years ago, the story still feels fairly fresh and timely in terms of dealing with relationship issues, gender politics and double-standards when it comes to the virtues of both sexes. Despite the fairly large number of players and subplots, the plot is straightforward enough. At a gathering of various people, two of the younger ones (Fran Kranz and Jilian Morgese) fall in love and a wedding is quickly planned, something that seems like utter foolishness to their more "seasoned" predecessors (Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof) who've written off relationships with the opposite sex.

As in most of Shakespeare's works, there's something for nearly everyone above and beyond those basic story details. That includes some treachery from several players (among them Sean Maher, Spencer Treat Clark and Riki Lindhome), comic misdirection (involving various characters trying to fool Benedick and Beatrice into believing they're in love with each other), and general goofiness (Nathan Fillion leading a bunch of bumbling security team members).

It's nothing earth-shattering in terms of comedic inventiveness or examining the aforementioned thematic elements, but it all goes down fairly easily in an enjoyable and entertaining enough fashion. Just do a little Bard prepping before you see it and you'll be all acclimated and ready to go. "Much Ado About Nothing" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed April 30, 2013 / Posted June 21, 2013

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