Much Ado About Nothing

1993, Movie, PG-13, 111 mins


Kenneth Branagh's second screen adaptation of Shakespeare--the first was HENRY V--is a spritely, sun-drenched production decked out with a high-profile international cast.

In Sicily, Leonato (Richard Briers), Governor of Messina, eagerly greets Don Pedro (Denzel Washington), Prince of Aragon, and his men as they return victorious from war. Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), Don Pedro's most honored comrade, falls in love with Hero (Kate Beckinsale), Leonato's virtuous and beautiful young daughter. Benedick (Kenneth Branagh), another of Don Pedro's companions, resumes his wittily antagonistic acquaintanceship with Beatrice (Emma Thompson), Leonato's niece. Don Pedro arranges to bring both young couples together, but a dark spell is cast over the proceedings by Don Pedro's jealous half-brother, Don John (Keanu Reeves), whose schemes temporaily disrupt the couples' plans and cause the usual Shakesperean complications before true love prevails.

Lushly photographed and superbly acted, MUCH ADO brought one of Shakespeare's most finely crafted romantic comedies to a popular audience. Though he loaded the production with Hollywood names (alongside a fine ensemble of British players), Branagh's approach to the play itself is quite conventional; very little cutting or updating has been done to the text, and the cast perform in period costume; the interracial casting seems the only nod to modernity. Branagh's use of trendy extended tracking and steadicam shots is sometimes distracting, but overall this is a jouyous romp whose forced jollity is only occasionally wearing. leave a comment

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