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Movie review: ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Posted 4:48pm on Thursday, Jun. 20, 2013

PG-13 (sexuality, brief drug use); 110 min.

In Shakespeare’s day, “nothing” was a double entendre, and a sexual one at that. And “noting” was a sexual innuendo, not to mention a pun on “nothing.”

So when the Bard titled his comedy Much Ado About Nothing, the man was joking about sex.

The sexiness moves front and center in Joss Whedon’s black-and-white production of Much Ado, a winking comedy with dark underpinnings and some of Shakespeare’s most wicked wordplay.

Whedon rounded up members of his TV repertory company — veterans of Buffy and Angel and Dollhouse and Firefly — and filmed the play in and around his rambling Southern California home.

Reed Diamond is Don Pedro, leading his entourage to a visit with Leonato (Clark Gregg). Young, headstrong Claudio (Fran Kranz) is instantly smitten with Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese). But hit-it-and-quit-it trooper Benedick (Alexis Denisof) is less impressed. He’s too busy bickering with the razor-tongued Beatrice (Amy Acker) to warn off the younger man.

Don Pedro’s half-brother, Don John (Sean Maher), is skulking around, sexing up one aide (Riki Lindhome) and plotting discord with the other (Spencer Treat Clark).

This bare-bones production has little of the froth and charisma of Kenneth Branagh’s lush period-dress version of 1993. Truthfully, the leads are serviceable, competent and amusing but TV-bland, and take some getting used to. But the wit and wordplay are in fine form, and some bits of casting are inspired.

Dogberry, the malapropism-spouting constable, is a David Caruso-inspired boob of a cop, played with deadpan glee by Nathan Fillion.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas; Cinemark West Plano

— Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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