MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Review by Michael Jacobson
Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, Robert
Sean Leonard, Michael Keaton, Kate Beckinsale
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: Original Trailer, Featurette
Length: 111 Minutes
Release Date: January 7, 2003
man is a giddy thing...and this is my conclusion.”
films you love with a deep, thorough love that comes from years of nurturing,
exploration, and familiarity. And
some you love like that first momentous pre-teenage crush that you never get
over. Much Ado About Nothing has
been like the latter for me for a decade. I
am still absolutely head over heels in love with this sunny, gorgeous take on
it was in theatres, I used to see it a couple of times a week after work,
especially if I had a bad day. Now,
to my surprise, it has re-emerged on DVD just in time to revive me after one of
my worst days on the job ever. The
timing was impeccable; no terrible day I’ve ever had has stood a chance
against the lilting power of this movie.
Branagh made a name for himself starring in and directing a modern version of Henry
V, and he would go on to create the boldest screen vision of Hamlet ever
filmed. But in between, he kicked
up a lark with his talent and tackled the supposedly “unfilmable” Bard’s
comedy, and created a funny, romantic, and completely accessible movie.
You don’t have to love Shakespeare to love this film.
title pretty much sums it up, but for way of better exposition:
Benedick (Branagh) and Beatrice (Thompson) have had nothing but scornful
words for the other as long as they’ve been acquainted.
At the same time, Benedick’s comrade-in-arms Claudio (Leonard) has
fallen for the lovely Hero (Becksinale, in her first movie role).
But while the Prince Don Pedro (Washington) is concocting a clever plan
to bring the feuding Benedick and Beatrice together, his half brother Don John
(Reeves) schemes to ruin the happy plans of Claudio and Hero.
Hearts are bared, broken, and set afire…but everything will be all
right by the end, thanks to the help of a half-wit constable (the outrageous
a plot summary doesn’t do the film justice.
Reading the play is better, but it still won’t give you the magic of
this beautiful production, nor the rhythm and timing of the witty dialogue as
delivered by Branagh and his excellent cast, nor the feeling of elation you’ll
have at the end, even though it is, after all, much ado about nothing.
gorgeous scenery plays a part in that…the lush wine country makes a
picturesque backdrop for such a romantic tale.
The music by Patrick Doyle is another plus…not only his score, but his
setting of two of Shakespeare’s rhymes to music as well (the “Pardon
Goddess” number is strikingly beautiful).
The courageous casting is also helpful.
Mixing Americans with Brits? Why
not? Casting an African American in
the role of an Italian prince? If
he’s as good as Denzel Washington, sure.
Give Michael Keaton some free reign to inject physical comedy into
already funny situations? No
the best parts for you and your (then) wife?
If you’re Kenneth Branagh, absolutely.
He and Emma Thompson have wonderful chemistry and deliver their lines
with wit, feeling and utter conviction. They
were an attractive and talented couple, and I still find myself saddened by
their break-up after all these years…I suppose the one dim spot in an
otherwise tremendously uplifting movie going experience!
Ado About Nothing is perfectly simple, yet simply perfect in my book.
It may not get mentioned today in the same breath with a lot of other
monumental cinematic Shakespearean adaptations, including a couple of
Branagh’s own, but I defy anyone of any age or background to watch this movie
and not fall under its spell.
I couldn’t tell any difference between this MGM offering and the one previously released by another studio now out of print. This material looks mostly good, but given the shooting with natural and available light, probably difficult to transfer. The brightly lit outdoor scenes are gorgeous, but the dimmer ones are occasionally murky with some loss of detail here and there. Some images seem a tad softer than normal, though others have more sharpness and clarity. Not quite a top notch presentation, but still serviceable enough.
stereo surround track works well enough, with a mostly dialogue driven audio.
Patrick Doyle’s score gives it dynamic range and impact, and sounds
quite lovely on DVD. Those
thundering horses’ hooves at the beginning come across well even without a .1
disc contains a trailer and a short production featurette, as well as previews
of other MGM titles.