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Much Ado About Nothing

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Much Ado About Nothing

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: May 1993
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Michael Keaton, Robert Sean Leonard, Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, Kate Beckinsale, Brian Blessed, Imelda Staunton, Richard Briers

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

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 Dogberry.

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 small part.

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 ABOUT NOTHING.

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

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