Much Ado About Nothing

Movie review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Much Ado About Nothing Movie Poster Image
Very accessible, jubilant Shakespeare with brief bawdiness.
  • PG-13
  • 1993
  • 111 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie starts with a poem about not taking things too seriously ("sigh not so ... and sing hey nonny nonny"), so there aren't any heavy messages to glean. Perhaps: keep a wary eye out for vengeful family members, and rumors are powerful things.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The prince gives up his claim for a young lady because his fellow soldier is in love with her. Characters play matchmaker with Beatrice and Benedict out of jest, but not mean-spiritedness. The villain's biggest flaw seems to be that he's cranky in such a lovely Tuscan setting and wants to spoil others' happiness. But nobody's a particularly strong role model.

Violence

The fair lady faints after accusations of infidelity, and her betrothed is told she died of grief. Hero's father pulls her hair and slaps her in a rage and Claudio pushes her. Prisoners look ill-treated by incompetent guardsman.

Sex

Characters are clearly having sex near an open window, as seen from a courtyard; skin isn't shown, but a few thrusts are apparent. A few minutes into the film the large Italian baths are alive with activity; plenty of bare bottoms (male and female in separate baths) are visible amidst the undressing, playful splashing, and dressing. Characters shout accusations and call Hero "wanton" and that she "knows the heat of a luxurious bed." Some clothed fondling of breasts and slapping of backsides at a masked party.

Language

"Bastard." Then "ass" is shouted multiple times by a foolish guard who thinks it's a compliment.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

It's set in a vineyard, so wine is a part of all the celebrations. Two characters get stumbling drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this very accessible Shakespeare adaptation gets the PG-13 rating because of a bunch of visible backsides in a jubilant bathing scene and a brief sex scene visible from afar (you'll see a few thrusts but characters are clothed). The rest of the content is pretty mild: a couple bad guys get drunk, a death is faked, and a silly guard shouts "I am an ass!" and thinks it's a compliment.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 year old Written bycrankylibrarian January 3, 2014

One of the best Shakespeare movies ever

Yes, it's Shakespeare, but it's chock full of slapstick humor, practical jokes, and gorgeous lovestruck young people. Kenneth Branagh in a rare comic... Continue reading
Adult Written byBrownie39 October 27, 2018

fun

this movie is very funny and action filled yes there is some kissing but anyone nine and up can wath it
Teen, 15 years old Written byjmhall97 January 4, 2013

Best Movie Ever

This is one of the best movies that I have ever seen. The setting is amazing, the acting is perfect, and the story is timeless. Kenneth Branagh does an amazing... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 22, 2012

Some content may not be appropriate for kids under 10-11.

One of my favorite movies, it's really funny. I think a kid's response to this movie is really based on their understanding of the language used. We w... Continue reading

What's the story?

On a lazy summer day in the Tuscan countryside a page rushes up to some picnickers to announce that Prince Don Pedro (Denzel Washington) is coming to Mecina. He brings with him a handful of eligible soldiers in need of rest and revelry at Lenoto's villa. Leonato's daughter Hero (Kate Beckinsale) is excited to see Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), but is promised to the prince. And Hero's cousin Beatrice (Emma Thompson) is anything but excited to see Benedict (Kenneth Branagh), and proceeds to engage in a "merry war of words" as soon as he arrives. As plans unfold to allow Hero to marry Claudio and, just for fun, see if Beatrice and Benedict can be persuaded to fall for each other, it's all merriment and mirth until the prince's illegitimate and always-cross brother Don Jon (Keanu Reeves) tries to spoil the fun.

Is it any good?

The best way to handle one of Shakespeare's fluffiest comedies is to keep it as fun and fanciful as intended, and that's exactly what this movie does. The villain is never to be taken seriously here -- so why not cast Keanu Reeves? He's a man of few words anyway. Even better: Michael Keaton as the greasy-haired fool; he's hilarious. Toss in a giddy bathing scene opener, declarations of love dancing in fountains, masked parties full of tipsy revelers, and you forget you were working hard to understand centuries-old prose.

The "Much Ado" portion, however, gets a little tedious. The hysterics over Hero's botched wedding and faked death are overdone and overlong. Rather than rolling eyes while waiting for the happy resolution, why not focus on the Tuscan countryside setting? It's breathtaking.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Shakespeare adaptations. Which plays have you seen? Do you like the comedies or the tragedies best? Is this one easier to follow than most? Why or why not?

  • Families can also talk about love stories. Which are your favorites? Do you like stories of sweet and quiet couples like Hero and Claudio or ones that "doth protest too much" like Beatrice and Benedict?

  • Do you think modern Shakespeare adaptations should use modern language? What's the benefit of hearing the original language?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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