06/13/2013 03:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Popcorn Preview: Much Ado About Nothing

Film: Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
Cast includes: Amy Acker (Catch Me If You Can), Alexis Denisof (Angel), Nathan Fillion (Castle), Clark Gregg (The Avengers), Reed Diamond (Moneyball), Fran Kranz (The Cabin in the Woods), Jillian Morgese (The Avengers)
Director: Joss Whedon (The Avengers)
Genre: Comedy based on William Shakespeare play | Romance (107 minutes)

Out of bed early... he quietly dresses so he won't wake her. Clothes are casually strewn on the floor and over the stylish mid-century furniture. It's an elegant black and white world, as the camera lovingly scans the details. Out on the street, it's almost daylight as the car comes to pick him up. The first time we hear Shakespeare's prose, the scene is the large kitchen of Leonato's home, where his daughter, Hero, and niece, Beatrice, are enjoying a bit of gourmet food prep. A messenger comes to announce that Don Pedro and his officers Claudio and Benedick, fresh from a successful battle, will be arriving for a month-long stay. The mention of Benedick's name unleashes Beatrice's sharp tongue, and Leonato explains, "There is a kind of merry war between Senor Benedick and her. They never meet, but there's a skirmish of wit between them."

Anyway, Beatrice is determined that marriage is not in her future... "not until God makes men of some other metal than earth." When the guests arrive, we learn that Claudio has long admired Leonato's daughter and wishes he could find a way to woo her. The masquerade ball will provide the perfect opportunity for a plot designed to win Hero's hand in marriage. Benedick swears he'll never marry... "It is certain I am loved of all ladies, but truly... I love none." It's going to take more than a masquerade ball to ignite the flame of love between Benedick and Beatrice. Don Pedro to the rescue... "If you three will administer assistance, I will bring Senor Benedick and Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection."

Of course, there are plots and counter plots. The whole adventure plays out in the large, sprawling hillside home of Leonato. While it's obviously prime real estate, the filmmakers make full use of many domestic incidentals... the little girl's room that becomes a guest room, the food and drink everywhere and the assorted electronics. Although it's a 400-year-old play, the filmmakers have been quite successful in moving it to a modern ambiance. Even the original music... a lot of jazz... is a charming blend of Shakespeare and modern. The interplay between the classic plot and the modern trappings provides many charming and comic moments. Although the styling and the black and white imagery are quite appealing, it may make it slightly more difficult to sort out whose who at first... especially with all the good-looking, elegantly dressed men, who look as if they all raided Don Draper's closet. On the other hand, the actors all give their characters distinct traits and personalities, so it all comes together delightfully. This version of Much Ado is much fun. Shakespeare's observations on human affairs are as true today as ever. "The course of true love never did run true."

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Shakespeare's comic romance delightfully set in modern day

Popcorn Profile
Rated: PG-13
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Art house
Mood: Jubilant
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Primary Driver: Artistic concept
Language: Artful
Social Significance: Pure entertainment

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