A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- In theaters: May 7, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: January 7, 2003
- Cast: Denzel Washington, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh
- Director: Kenneth Branagh
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: momentary sensuality
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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