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 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).
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?
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