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Much Ado About Nothing is a film full of love, sex, spying and scandal by director Joss Whedon and acclaimed screenwriter William Shakespeare. Don Pedro and his fellow officers Claudio and Benedick have just returned from a war and now it’s time to celebrate, at the estate of their friend and ally Leonato. Once there Claudio falls almost instantly in love with Leonato’s daughter Hero, and after just one night of partying Hero is wooed with the help of Don Pedro (played by Reed Diamond,  Dollhouse ) and by morning the two are betrothed. To kill time until their wedding day, the friends and houseworkers conspire to set up Benedick, a self-styled bachelor for life, with Beatrice, Hero’s cousin and Benedick’s equal in an ongoing battle of wits. Meanwhile Pedro’s illegitimate brother Don John hatches a plot of his own, to frame Hero for infidelity on the night before her wedding, and ruin the lives of everybody involved.

With this elegant new adaptation Joss Whedon proves that Shakespeare knows better than most how to write a solid romantic comedy. And fans of Joss Whedon’s previous film and TV projects will be thrilled to see familiar faces from his previous projects like The Avengers , Cabin in the Woods , and Firefly .

The story takes place at the estate of Leonato (played by Clark GreggThe Avengers ), which could easily be somewhere in southern California. The party-goers wear beautiful masks and tuxedoes and drink cocktails and at the piano a singer sings “hey nonny nonny” and actually sounds like a lounge singer and not an Elizabethan English peasant. It’s not the first time Shakespeare’s been “modernized” in this way, but Whedon does an admirable job of making this story feel hip and contemporary without doing it in a superficial, gimmicky way. It doesn’t pull a Baz Luhrmann and overload your senses with spectacle, and although it is stylistically done and supported by the classy modern setting, the performance of the actors themselves is what makes this version feel fresh; they make the language sparkle and shine, and bring it to life in the 21st century; even though it does take a few minutes to adjust the ear to the language, you do get used to it and it sounds like everyday speech.

Whedon and Shakespeare may likely never have been mentioned in the same sentence before, but Whedon’s penchant for sharp, witty dialogue and strong female characters lends itself surprisingly well to the Bard, best demonstrated in the characters of Beatrice and Benedick, both too proud to admit they may have feelings for each other, and who would sooner engage in verbal sparring than get together and feel alright. But they enjoy that sparring, and that’s what makes them so much fun to watch.

Hero and Claudio’s plotline is much more of a straight romance, but Jillian Morgese and Fran Kranz ( Cabin In the Woods ) bring all the innocence and nervous energy to the characters to make you still invest in them, especially when things turn horribly awry in their relationship. But Beatrice and Benedick are the true romantic leads, which is interesting because they’re the more comedic pair, unusual for the rom-com formula. Amy Acker ( The Cabin in the Woods ) and Alexis Denisof  ( The Avengers ) bring a good dose of goofiness to the roles, and although there are times when they verge on caricature, they play off each other really well. Sean Maher ( Serenity, Firefly ) does a great job as the under-written Don John, making him as brooding and charming as a villain should be without ever going over the top.

On the opposite end of the ardent lovers and the malicious Don John stands the bumbling constable Dogberry, Verges, and the watchmen. Completely endearing in their incompetence, their scenes are without a doubt the funniest, as Dogberry, brilliantly performed by Nathan Fillion ( Serenity , Firefly ), piles one ridiculous malapropism after another while they pursue the perpetrators of Don John’s schemes.

Is Much Ado About Nothing Opening-Weekend Worthy?

If you’re a hardcore Whedonite or Bardolator you’re probably going to go see this one, regardless of what I say. But even if you’re only somewhat familiar with either, Much Ado About Nothing is worth catching on opening weekend. Never mind the reputation of either; it’s simply an all around good movie, a solid and paradoxically original romantic comedy–likely better than any other rom-coms Tinsel Town is going to churn out this summer.

Much Ado About Nothing Trailer

Much Ado About Nothing Production Gallery