When I heard that Joss Whedon had recharged during post-production for The Avengers by inviting his friends over to his house for some low-budget, DIY, black-and-white Shakespeare, I feared that the result would be a little too far on the precious side. While his screen adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing does have moments when it feels a tad too twee (mostly due to Whedon's wispy music during a couple of syrupy montages), it's also surprisingly effective, especially in the final act.
Amy Acker and Alexis Denisov, both of whom I know well from multiple viewings of Whedon's TV series Angel, are terrific as the bickering couple Beatrice and Benedick, with Acker tackling the more demanding role with almost perfect charm, wit, range and pain. She gives the kind of commanding, heartfelt, organic performance that can explain the appeal of Shakespeare to audiences who feel that it's out-of-date and/or inaccessible. Whedon's sharp direction brings out the script's natural emotions, resulting in a climax that is not only emotionally gripping but also touched by wonderful comedy, with Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk highlighting Whedon's interpretive facility as a pair of hilariously awkward cops.
The whole cast — which also includes Reed Diamond, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, Jillian Morgese, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, Ashley Johnson and Emma Bates — is great, but the film rests largely on Acker's shoulders, and she delivers with the force of a real star.
Much Ado About Nothing was brought to my Potluck Film Fest by Flickcharter Rachel Gilbert, who can be found on Flickchart under the username figureitout. She ranks it on her chart at #121 / 1537 (92%), putting it at #1 out of four Movies Based on Shakespeare. Much Ado About Nothing ranked on my Flickchart at #592 (85%), making it my 4th favorite of 15 Movies Based on Shakespeare.