Directed by Kenneth Branagh (1993) Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Richard Briers, Kate Beckinsale, Robert Sean Leonard, Imelda Staunton, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, Michael Keaton
Kenneth Branagh really knows how to make Shakespeare entertaining. Shakespeare: Always interesting, but you really need the right stuff to make it work as a film. That said, the right stuff is gathered here for Much Ado About Nothing. Branagh has assembled a great cast for this comedy, even when we take into consideration a certain someone. Keanu Reeves *cough cough cough*
A-hem, excuse me. So where was I? Oh yeah: CAST! Love love love it. Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson star as Benedick and Beatrice, the rivals of wit while Robert Sean Leonard and Kate Beckinsale are the lovers Claudio and Hero. Denzel Washington is great as Don Pedro, and for his few scenes as the villain, Keanu Reeves makes a rather psychotic turn as Don John.
However, Michael Keaton steals the show as the probably-crazy, incensed Dogberry with his crew of merry men Don Pedro’s guards. He rushes from scene to scene pretending to ride a horse, picks on his fellows mercilessly and is hilarious to watch.
The lines are read conversationally, rather than with bombastic speeches. The wordplay, always fun with Shakespeare, is recited like modern jokes and quips. While the set is simple, with lot’s of outdoor scenes and taking place within an Italian estate, certain sequences are very stylized. The arrival of Don Pedro and the men, the masque sequence, and the final wedding scene are equal in their complicated stylization with their importance to the plot.
Much Ado About Nothing is funny and smart, a Shakespeare film done well.