Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Much Ado About Nothing



Kenneth Branagh's second attempt (after Henry V) to popularize Shakespeare for the screen yields his best movie to date--not especially interesting as art perhaps, but a smashing piece of entertainment. The comedy has been cut and deprived of its urban setting so that the whole thing could be shot in and around a 14th-century Tuscan villa, but the trade-off seems worth it, and most of the cast shines: I especially enjoyed Michael Keaton's outrageous mugging as Constable Dogberry. Denzel Washington is sufficiently elegant as Don Pedro to enable one to forget his American accent most of the time. If Branagh himself as Benedick is the price we have to pay to get the resourceful Emma Thompson (his wife and regular costar) as Beatrice, they're both more at home here than Keanu Reeves as Don John. Their separate soliloquies are effectively staged like recitatives in a musical, and their sparring dialogues are somewhat evocative of Kiss Me Kate. If you appreciate the effort to make Shakespeare comprehensible, the high spirits, sensual trappings, and juicy language of this buoyant, handsome production are pretty contagious. Fine Arts.

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