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Much Ado About Nothing (Blu-ray Review)

18 Oct, 2013 By: John Latchem

Box Office $4.33 million
$19.98 DVD, $24.99
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some sexuality and brief drug use.
Stars Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, Ashley Johnson, Emma Bates, Tom Lenk.

After pumping out the highest-grossing film not directed by James Cameron, how is a director supposed to relax? Anyone who has followed Joss Whedon’s career at all would not be surprised that he would choose to make a micro-budget, black-and-white adaptation of a William Shakespeare comedy.

Starring the Joss Whedon players — a talented cadre of recognizable performers best known for appearances in Whedon’s TV shows and movies — Much Ado About Nothing is an agreeable diversion that should please fans of the filmmaker from prior to his sudden rise in stature following The Avengers and his work with the Marvel Studios properties.

Of particular interest is the casting of longtime Whedon collaborators Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof as Beatrice and Benedick. The pair were best known as Wesley and Fred on Whedon’s “Angel,” the fan-favorite couple whose love affair was tragically cut short by the forces of destiny. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in seeing them once again come together here.

This version of Much Ado has been transplanted to modern times, and benefits from Whedon’s re-interpretation of the original material. The update was done primarily for budgetary reasons — allowing actors to use their own clothes, with the bulk of the filming taking place at Whedon’s own house — although the play’s old-fashioned notions of courtship may not quite mesh with the contemporary setting.

Whedon’s reasons for making this film are well laid out in a production featurette and his informative commentary track — in which he recounts conducting Shakespeare readings over the years with the casts of his shows. Whedon also joins most of the film's cast in a raucous second commentary that sounds more like a viewing party, complete with drinking games.

Also fun is a featurette about Whedon and the cast taking a wild bus trip to Austin, Texas, to promote the film at the SXSW festival. Some of the home videos from this trip are nearly as entertaining as anything in the film.

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