Much Ado About Nothing

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Much Ado About Nothing Movie Poster Image
Joss Whedon makes teen-friendly Shakespeare; some drinking.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The truth will come out, and true love will prevail.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hero stands out as blameless of all, a hopeful young woman in love and willing to forgive. Others have far less pure intent.


Characters scream at each other and throw verbal barbs at one another; talk of battles.


One scene shows a man spying on what appears to be a couple engaging in sex (viewers don't see body parts, but it's pretty clear what the silhouetted figures are up to). In another scene, a man and a woman are interrupted while making out. Another couple is shown passionately kissing in the background while people are deep in conversation.


The word "ass" is used several times in one humorous scene. Also "oh Lord" and "oh God" as exclamations.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Shakespeare-accurate revelry, with wine and hard liquor during parties and the like. A brief shot of party guests smoking marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this version of William Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado About Nothing, set in modern-day Los Angeles but performed using the original text, may bring the play to new life in ways that both teens and adults will appreciate. Director Joss Whedon's decision to set the play in the present works, making it more approachable and fun. Expect some drinking among party goers and one brief glimpse of marijuana smoking. One salty word makes a repeated appearance ("ass"), and there are some sexually charged scenes (including one where the shadow of a couple engaged in a sexual act is glimpsed).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytolkien geek mi April 22, 2015

It's Shakespeare so...

I liked this version of Much Ado. If I wanted to be picky...Conrade and Benedick weren't great. But overall it was very good. Very modern and classy.
How... Continue reading
Parent Written bycrankylibrarian January 3, 2014

Much Ado for adults

A dark, more mature take than the joyous Branagh version, in cool black and white with more sinister overtones. Everything works out in the end, just barely, bu... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byur_eggos_preggos March 3, 2018

A little sex, no nudity, but kids won't get it

The only reason I say 14 and up is because the film is done in Ye Olde English, and I'd say below 14 wouldn't really understand the film as easily. De... Continue reading

What's the story?

The Bard's comedy MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is set in modern-day Los Angeles, where the welcoming Leonato (Clark Gregg) receives a visit from a triumphant Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), the brave Benedick (Alexis Denisof), and the able Claudio (Fran Kranz), who's in love with Leonato's daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese). As Claudio prepares for marriage to Hero, Benedick trades barbs with Hero's cousin, Beatrice (Amy Acker), whose tongue is as cutting as her glares. But without love, hatred can't be, and sometimes it's difficult to distinguish the two. And as for Claudio and Hero, the road to matrimony can be a rocky affair with schemers spreading lies.

Is it any good?

Unassumingly enjoyable and low-key, Much Ado works because it lets Shakespeare's words take center stage, eschewing the usual pomp and circumstance. On paper, a black-and-white version of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing filmed in a fraction of time it takes to make a typical movie and featuring ex-vampire slayers running around a circa-2010s Los Angeles house might not sound like a very good idea. But, to borrow from the Bard: "He hath indeed better bettered expectation."

Still, here's one complaint: rendering it in black-and-white feels superfluous, even distracting. And another: Though it's novel and offbeat for director Joss Whedon to have filmed the movie in his own home, doing so feels somewhat claustrophobic. Shakespeare's work needs a more expansive set. The best part of the movie is Acker, who leaves the rest of the cast -- except perhaps for Nathan Fillion, who kills as the bumbling Dogberry -- in her wake. Her Beatrice is soulful and cutting and very, very funny. Benedick stands no chance with her in the role.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages in the story. What is the movie, and Shakespeare's play, saying about gossip? Can it be harmful?

  • Benedick and Beatrice are the perfect examples of "opposites attract." But is this really true in real life?

  • Why are Shakespeare's plays popular in Hollywood? Does this version of Much Ado About Nothing, set in modern day, work? Can you think of any other plays you'd like to see in a modern setting?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love classics

Themes & Topics

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