Retro Review: Much Ado About Nothing
Oh, nonny nonny.
Much Ado About Nothing is a story about exactly that. But since it is a Shakespeare story, it also involves a lot of ploys of evilness.
With a star-studded cast, this 1993 Kenneth Branagh film is one of the best Shakespeare films out there.
Emma Thompson plays Beatrice, while Branagh plays Benedick, together they make one of the best literary couples in history. Denzel Washington plays prince Don Pedro while Keanu Reeves plays his deceiving brother Don John. From the moment you see him on screen you can just sense he is up to no good. He’s got a perpetual look of distain and envy on his face and he really doesn’t like his brother.
Robert Sean Leonard (Wilson!) plays Claudio, who is poorly deceived to be let to believe his future wife, Hero (a very young Kate Beckinsale), is less than pure and publicly humiliates her and accuses.
Michael Keaton plays a small but important role of constable Dogberry – whom no one understands because he uses words wrongly.
The film is very merry. There is a lot of happiness about, which is contrasted very well in the extreme despair surrounding the deceit. The love in the young couples’ eyes is just as intense as the hatred in the eyes of Don John towards his brother.
Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship is perfectly played by Thompson and Branagh, they show their maturity, wit and intelligence well while Leonard and Beckinsale are perfectly cast as innocent young lovers who do not really know how to deal with their emotions.
However, Keaton and Reeves are oddly cast. Keaton is basically playing Beetle Juice while Reeves just seems to be out of it, he doesn’t seem to completely grasp the anger and jealousy he’s supposed to be showing.
The cinematography is excellent, highlighted by a number of one-take scenes, where the camera is let to roam around the cast while they act out the scene. The play itself is mostly written in prose, which was very rare for Shakespeare to do, but it gives the whole play an air of classiness.
Final Verdict: One of Shakespeare’s best comedies is almost perfectly played out here under the excellent guidance of Kenneth Branagh. Most actors are perfectly cast, with two exceptions. Firstly, Keanu Reeves, who doesn’t seem to have the acting capabilities to show the integral hatred boiling in Don John’s heart towards his brother. He just sounds stoned. Secondly, Michael Keaton who falls back on his character in Tim Burton’s Beetle Juice. The film is very merry overall but it is very well balanced with ploys of jealousy and it is well acted out. The best part of the film are the scenes between Beatrice and Benedick, who almost drown each other with wit. A thoroughly entertaining film.