MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is another Shakespearean film from that
Shakespearean master Kenneth Branagh. There is no one today who can do
Shakespeare like Branagh, see, for example, his HENRY V, which was
number one on my list the year it was released. In MUCH ADO ABOUT
NOTHING, he wrote the screen adaptation as well as did the direction.
I will assume that most of you know the plot In MUCH ADO ABOUT
NOTHING from school so I will not repeat in detail here. Suffice it to
say that there are a pair of lovers - one younger, Hero (Kate
Beckinsale) and Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), and one older, Beatrice
(Emma Thompson) and Benedick (Kenneth Branagh). The younger pair know
they are in love and plan to get married in a week, but the nefarious
Don Pedro (Denzel Washington) tries to keep the wedding from happening.
The older lovers fight like an old married couple and claim they hate
each other. Typical Shakespeare, there are a lot of other characters
including Keanu Reeves as Don John, Richard Briers as Leonato, Brian
Blessed as Antonio, and last, and certainly least, Michael Keaton as
The movie is uneven, but the range is from good to outstanding.
Whenever Kenneth Branagh and his lover Emma Thompson have any scenes
together, it is as close to perfection as it gets. They have so much
energy, it makes you feel alive and glad to be on any planet they
inhabit. They are the older lovers in the show, but by far and away
the most interesting.
The younger lovers' acting abilities are okay at best. Robert
Sean Leonard's acting is quite unsure in the early scenes, but he warms
up a bit to the part as the movie builds steam. On the whole, I found
their romance a disappointment. I still remember ROMEO AND JULIET
(1969) so I know how great it can be.
Although Denzel Washington is in the film, his heart and passion
seem to be somewhere else. This is the first show I have seen him in
where he did not steal the show. He is fine in his role, but nothing
special. The only serious problem in the casting is Michael Keaton.
As an actor, when he is good, he is very very good (see for example
CLEAN AND SOBER), and when he is bad (don't see ONE GOOD COP), he is
awful. I have not seen such overacting in a long time as his acting in
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. The only saving grace is that he only has a
The technical aspects of the movie are outstanding. The
cinematography by Roger Lanser and the sets by Tim Harvey are lush and
gorgeous. The music by Patrick Doyle is breathtaking.
If you feel in the mood for a movie not costing something
approaching the national debt to produce, if you actually enjoy humans
in your movies (no, I am not dinophobic, but there is more to life than
JURASSIC PARK), if you especially like humans who can talk and have
something to say at the same time, if you like screens smaller than
Candlestick park, then go to your local art house and see MUCH ADO
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING runs 1:51. It is correctly rated PG-13 and
would be fine for any kid old enough to appreciate the Bard. I
recommend the show to you and give it ***. I look forward with great
anticipation to Branagh's next Shakespeare piece, and the one after
that, and the one that ...
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes