Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

1993, PG-13, 111 min. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Kate Beckinsale, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Keaton, Robert Sean Leonard, Keanu Reeves, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington.

REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., June 25, 1993

Ripe as a midsummer melon, Kenneth Branagh's return to Shakespeare captures the Bard's captivating comic romance at the peak of flavor. It's full of more emotion and humor than a dozen multiplex movies combined and is juicy and sweet in the bargain. The multi-talented Branagh, serving as the adaptor of Shakespeare's story, as well as the film's director and male star, as he did for Henry V, is ever the careful farmer, taking a story that's implausible and easy for modern audiences to snicker at and nurturing it with a knockout cast and an air of festivity until it blooms as an infectious blend of feeling and fancy. Branagh and spouse Emma Thompson again make a charming screen couple as the feuding wits Benedick and Beatrice, two quite bright, quite confirmed unmarrieds who constantly snap at each other like terriers, albeit very clever terriers. We get hints of a prior affair between the two, one in which Benedick behaved badly, and that heightens the comedy when their friends conspire to convince each that the other is madly in love with him or her. Branagh and Thompson turn neatly from steely witsnappers to wide-eyed love puppies, and it's in just this sort of area that Branagh's cultivation of big feeling is so remarkable; in most films, playing the comedy so broadly would seem too much, yet Branagh manages to push it right to that point of acceptability and hold it there, boldly but believably. Likewise, in the story's dramatic moments, when Beatrice's cousin Hero is accused of betraying her intended Claudio and a rift opens between Benedick and his friends Claudio and Don Pedro, the depth of passion expressed is profound, particularly by Thompson's Beatrice, yet it never crosses into ham-handed, big-A Acting. The rest of the cast generally displays the leading couple's command of big feeling, though Michael Keaton, perhaps feeling desperate to bust loose after his recent bouts as a stoic Caped Crusader, zooms into his own galaxy for his portrayal of Dogberry, the malaprop-spouting constable. Keaton's version, slovenly and grotesque, looks like a refugee from Barfly, and at times, you'd swear you could smell him. Yet, somehow, even his extreme performance grows on you. Robert Sean Leonard and Kate Beckinsale, as the young sweethearts Claudio and Hero, drip doe-eyed affection of the most sympathetic kind. Denzel Washington, as the prince Don Pedro, is as noble as a seaside cliff and genial and sexy. Keanu Reeves never quite works himself up to full sneer as the wicked schemer Don John, but his performance does nothing to spoil the fun. Sunny, warm, and so full as to almost split its skin, that's Much Ado. The Bard himself said it, “Ripeness is all.” Here's a hey nonny nonny to that.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Much Ado About Nothing
Party All the Time
Party All the Time
'Much Ado' and much fun with Whedon, Acker, and Denisof

Robert Faires, June 21, 2013

More Much Ado About Nothing
Exhibitionism
Much Ado About Nothing
Everyone, young and old alike, gets drawn in to Present Company's staging of this Shakespearean rom-com

Spike Gillespie, May 2, 2014

Exhibitionism
Much Ado About Nothing
Shakespeare may not seem like experimental theatre, but it is when it's being performed by improvisers

Dan Solomon, July 19, 2013

More Kenneth Branagh Films
Murder on the Orient Express
You may want to cancel your ticket to this latest Christie adaptation

Kimberley Jones, Nov. 10, 2017

Cinderella
Simple, elegant, and lovely, this live-action fairy tale enchants

Steve Davis, March 13, 2015

More by Robert Faires
Moontower Comedy 2018: Ali Siddiq
Moontower Comedy 2018: Ali Siddiq
The Houston comedian on taking his act back behind bars

April 19, 2018

Fusebox and Moontower Fests
Fusebox and Moontower Fests
Fill your weekend with experimental performance art and/or laughs

April 20, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Much Ado About Nothing, Kenneth Branagh, Kate Beckinsale, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Keaton, Robert Sean Leonard, Keanu Reeves, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle