Much Ado About Nothing Movie Poster Image

Much Ado About Nothing



Joss Whedon makes teen-friendly Shakespeare; some drinking.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

Positive role models

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.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

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).

Kids say

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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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:June 7, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:October 8, 2013
Cast:Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Clark Gregg, Nathan Fillion
Director:Joss Whedon
Topics:Book characters
Run time:109 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some sexuality and brief drug use

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Parent of a 16 and 18+ year old Written byStitcher July 12, 2013

Wow, what passes for PG-13, as long as no one is naked!

Not sure if the site reviewer watched this all the way through -- While there is little to no nudity, there is alot more sex than the Commonsense review presents. The "couple making out" is a mostly clothed couple having sex (while speaking lines of dialog), and the foreplay continues (woman moaning) while the man talks to the interrupter. Really a disturbing scene. Also, what CSM calls "some drinking among party goers" is a serious understatement. Every surface in the kitchen is covered with bottles and glasses of alcohol, and most of the characters are drinking and drunk most of the time, either lining up shots, drinking from hip flasks, etc. I enjoyed the different take on Shakespeare, but I would not take young teens, unfortunately,.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 12 year old 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, but there's an underlying sense of menace. Implied casual sex and LOTS of drinking. I think of this as the "nice" version of Taming of the Shrew; the same battle of the sexes banter, except both parties end up giving a little and neither is totally humiliated or subjugated. Hero and Claudio may be the Dullest Lovers in Shakespeare, but who could resist the reluctantly lovesick Benedict: "I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is that not strange?" Yes, wondrously strange. And wonderful that this is a story of two former lovers who broke each other's hearts, and must conquer their mutual distrust before the happy ending. A mature Romeo and Juliet, no longer starry eyed, but old enough to know what they're doing and yet still fall rapturously in love.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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. However, it's Shakespeare so... there's some language and a lot of suggestive dialogue. Admittedly it takes a couple times to discover most of the content. There's a bit of violence that could frighten younger children (though they probably wouldn't have much interest anyways) - a father smacks his adult daughter, a faux funeral procession. Also, there's one scene of implied sexual content. Nothing's explicit but there's an overtone that Don Jon may have forced himself on his lover. Overall it's a lovely film. Beautifully shot and well acted. But probably not appropriate...or interesting...for most young teens and below.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking