Much Ado About Nothing - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Much Ado About Nothing Reviews

Page 1 of 135
September 24, 2016
Knowing next to nothing about Shakespear does not matter with this movie, dispite that the script is entirely that. It's not the star power of the movie that makes this movie outstanding, but the actual performances that they present.
January 27, 2016
You can appreciate it, even if you don't understand Shakespeare, but some of the motives of the characters seem kinda muddy.
January 23, 2016
Upon first viewing it at a young age I wasn't fond of it. Upon viewing it years later as an adult, I like it a lot. Another hit by Branagh.
January 21, 2016
gr8 version of this Shakespeare tale i wrote a paper on it 4 shakespeare class in college
January 11, 2016
Well, it's all fun and games. And Shakespeare.
½ January 2, 2016
An excellent, enjoyable treat
November 11, 2015
Love the imagery and music. One of my all time favorite movies.
Robert B.
Super Reviewer
October 5, 2015
Much Ado About Nothing is a playful and naive adaptation. Emma Thompson's performance is the best in the cast, with the rest lacking her zest. The directing is mostly uncinematic, with poor outdoor lighting but does have a couple of nice shots and sequences. Overall, the film is light entertainment and not high art.
September 19, 2015
Un divertidoo drama shakesperiano de intrigas y envidias apoyado en un reparto irrepetible.Tiene lo suficiente para agradar incluso a quienes no estan familiarizados con el genero
June 28, 2015
Translated beautifully on the big screen.
½ June 15, 2015
didn't really get much into it, but the acting in this film is great.
June 8, 2015
Kenneth Branagh does it again making Shakespeare interesting on the big screen. His performance is excellent as always and Emma Thompson is excellent as well leading this all star ensemble. Denzel Washington is also good in this like he always is. The weak link though is unsurprisingly Keanu Reeves who would make a piece of cardboard more interesting compared to the performance he gives in this movie. The costumes, music, and production design are also excellent
½ May 12, 2015
Back in November 2013, I wrote an article for WhatCulture! citing my ten favourite William Shakespeare adaptations. In justifying the inclusion of this film, I said that the conventions of Shakespeare's comedies "so often don't stand up on film", and that "to do justice to a Shakespeare comedy takes someone with great patience and boundless energy."

Eighteen months and one re-viewing later, my opinion of Much Ado About Nothing has scarsely changed. Kenneth Branagh's second directorial effort is a wonderful, joyous film, a bright, breezy and immensely accessible adaptation which sees him enjoying himself immensely both behind and in front of the camera. Having assembled a truly stellar cast, he gives us a witty and exuberant take on the story which blows away all the cobwebs, making it consummate viewing for both purists and newcomers.

Branagh's biggest success, as both an actor and a director, has been his ability to take the most complex aspects of language and emotion and make them intriguingly accessible. Great Shakespearean actors of the past, like Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud or Paul Schofield, were often regarded (rightly or wrongly) as insular elitists: they sought to preserve their centuries-old craft from modern tendences to misinterpret or embellish timeless art. Branagh, on the other hand, reveres Shakespeare while remaining self-deprecating, sometimes going so far as actively laughing at himself.

Had Branagh been the stuffy sort, he would have been content to sit behind the camera and channel his so-called megalomania into berating his actors, resulting in the most tediously well-behaved adaptation you could imagine. Instead, he casts himself as Benedick, a role which is founded on a lack of self-awareness, and whose actions prompt ridicule from both the other characters and the audience via dramatic irony. Rather than become self-conscious, Branagh finds great joy in playing the oaf, and in getting under the surface to show the genuine feelings, disguised by bluster, which underpin even the most foolish thoughts.

The biggest departure between this film and Branagh's equally brilliant take on Henry V is the visuals. With Henry V, Branagh very consciously wanted a more gritty and earthy look, showing the toil and pain that the characters go through and moving the text away from Olivier's Allied propaganda version from the 1940s. Because we're in more comedic territory, you wouldn't expect him simply to repeat himself, but he instead goes out of his way to lighten things up: the abundance of whites, golds and paler blues is in stark contrast to the mud of Agincourt and the deeper blues and reds of Henry's royal crest.

Branagh also employs a policy of long, fluid takes, something which he would take to its natural conclusion in Hamlet three years later. The key word here is 'fluid', since the movement of the camera contributes a great deal to the energy of a given scene. If the camera were static, locked-off in a specific place with characters wandering in and out, it would have instantly felt like a recorded stage play - what Alfred Hitchcock used to call "photographs of people talking". By having his camera follow and circle the actors, particularly during the renditions of 'Hey Nonny Nonny', Branagh keeps us in the midst of the action and puts us in the restless mindset of the characters.

Like many modern farces, Much Ado About Nothing derives most of its comedy from confusion, in this case from rumours being spread about the two couples at the centre of the action. It's a story which is rooted in dramatic irony, in which the audience's enjoyment comes from seeing the characters getting the wrong end of the stick, trying and failing to work things out and creating more havoc as they go. While a first-person Much Ado would make for an intriguing experiment, it's likely that being so close to the action would rob the audience of much of the story's enjoyment.

At the centre of Much Ado About Nothing is the theme of deceptive appearances. The vast majority of the characters are completely different on the surface to how they actually feel: of the protagonists, only Claudio and Hero - to borrow a phrase from Macbeth - have no serpents under their innocent flowers. Don Pedro's plan to bring Benedick and Beatrice together begins as more of a practical joke than anything with more noble intentions. But as the events unfold, these two characters grow to respect and admire each other in spite of whatever differences they had, or believed they had.

Shakespeare is making a comment here on the way that the different genders behave around each other in matters of courtship. He starts from a position where both characters are forthright, almost to extremes - Benedick with his cocky, chauvinistic boasting and Beatrice with her acid wit and low opinion of men. Both characters gradually open up and reveal their insecurities, which come to a head when Beatrice begs Benedick to kill Claudio. They do not entirely lose their nature in the process, but both become more comfortable with each other and their friends as a result of letting their true feelings be expressed without fear of reproach.

There has been some speculation about the relationship enjoyed by Benedick and Beatrice before the events of the play. The decision to interpret one way or the other seems to fall on Beatrice's line: "You always end with a jade's trick. I know you of old." Joss Whedon's recent version took this line and extrapolated the latter part, implying that Benedick and Beatrice had once been lovers. Branagh's interpretation is perhaps more faithful and traditional, using it to indicate that this is not the first time Beatrice would have beaten him in a battle of words.

Branagh's desire to keep the tempo up helps to energise the long soliloquys that both these characters enjoy. In a slower-paced outing, long periods of self-reflection such as these could drag the plot down and rob Shakespeare of his eloquence: part of his appeal is the way his characters conjure up great metaphors at speed, conveying depth without just sitting around, thinking long and hard about what to say. Branagh's monologue about being "horribly in love" is a splendid example; by treating it a stream of consciousness rather than anything more mannered, more of the character's soul and contradictions are revealed.

Even if you don't analyse the emotional turmoils of the central characters, Much Ado About Nothing still holds together as a farce. The title derives from 'noting', meaning overhearing gossip, which in Elizabethan England was pronounced the same as 'nothing'. Branagh captures just how easily people are swayed by what others think of them, turning authority into sources of ridicule for our amusement. But the graver misunderstandings still carry weight, keeping a moral centre to the film in amongst all the frivolity.

The ace in the hole with Branagh's Shakespeare films has always been the casting - not just the roster of impressive names, but his knack for surprising casting decisions which pay off enormously. His own performance as Benedick is brilliant, but it would be mostly in vain if he had not cast his then-wife Emma Thompson opposite him. Thompson strikes a perfect balance with Beatrice, retaining her playful, sunny aspects while keeping her as smart and as sharp as any of the men. The roots of her later resolve in Saving Mr Banks are all here in plain sight, waiting to be appreciated.

Branagh's choices for the supporting cast are equally inspired. Richard Briers is an excellent choice for Leonarto, his warm delivery working to his advantage in one of the more seasoned and wry roles of the play. Denzel Washington is a perfect choice for Don Pedro, making it all the more inexplicable that he has not done more Shakespeare, or more comedy. Casting Keanu Reeves as Don John was a massive gamble, even before he earned a reputation for being wooden, but his cold, clinical portrayal slots into proceedings very nicely. But no choice is more inspired than Michael Keaton as Dogberry. Having already demonstrated his comic potential in Beetlejuice, Keaton plays every line to its fullest and inhabits the part, creating what is probably its definitive portrayal.

Much Ado About Nothing is a majestic slice of cinematic joy which solidifies Branagh's reputation is a Shakespearean par excellence. While it is slightly too long and a trifle silly in places, its few off-kilter moments are more than counteracted by the beautiful visuals, inspired casting and the sheer level of enjoyment which is generated. In short, it explains the appeal of Shakespeare's sense of humour without resorting to any lectures, leaving us with buzzing brains and big smiles on our faces.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ May 12, 2015
Back in November 2013, I wrote an article for WhatCulture! citing my ten favourite William Shakespeare adaptations. In justifying the inclusion of this film, I said that the conventions of Shakespeare's comedies "so often don't stand up on film", and that "to do justice to a Shakespeare comedy takes someone with great patience and boundless energy."

Eighteen months and one re-viewing later, my opinion of Much Ado About Nothing has scarsely changed. Kenneth Branagh's second directorial effort is a wonderful, joyous film, a bright, breezy and immensely accessible adaptation which sees him enjoying himself immensely both behind and in front of the camera. Having assembled a truly stellar cast, he gives us a witty and exuberant take on the story which blows away all the cobwebs, making it consummate viewing for both purists and newcomers.

Branagh's biggest success, as both an actor and a director, has been his ability to take the most complex aspects of language and emotion and make them intriguingly accessible. Great Shakespearean actors of the past, like Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud or Paul Schofield, were often regarded (rightly or wrongly) as insular elitists: they sought to preserve their centuries-old craft from modern tendences to misinterpret or embellish timeless art. Branagh, on the other hand, reveres Shakespeare while remaining self-deprecating, sometimes going so far as actively laughing at himself.

Had Branagh been the stuffy sort, he would have been content to sit behind the camera and channel his so-called megalomania into berating his actors, resulting in the most tediously well-behaved adaptation you could imagine. Instead, he casts himself as Benedick, a role which is founded on a lack of self-awareness, and whose actions prompt ridicule from both the other characters and the audience via dramatic irony. Rather than become self-conscious, Branagh finds great joy in playing the oaf, and in getting under the surface to show the genuine feelings, disguised by bluster, which underpin even the most foolish thoughts.

The biggest departure between this film and Branagh's equally brilliant take on Henry V is the visuals. With Henry V, Branagh very consciously wanted a more gritty and earthy look, showing the toil and pain that the characters go through and moving the text away from Olivier's Allied propaganda version from the 1940s. Because we're in more comedic territory, you wouldn't expect him simply to repeat himself, but he instead goes out of his way to lighten things up: the abundance of whites, golds and paler blues is in stark contrast to the mud of Agincourt and the deeper blues and reds of Henry's royal crest.

Branagh also employs a policy of long, fluid takes, something which he would take to its natural conclusion in Hamlet three years later. The key word here is 'fluid', since the movement of the camera contributes a great deal to the energy of a given scene. If the camera were static, locked-off in a specific place with characters wandering in and out, it would have instantly felt like a recorded stage play - what Alfred Hitchcock used to call "photographs of people talking". By having his camera follow and circle the actors, particularly during the renditions of 'Hey Nonny Nonny', Branagh keeps us in the midst of the action and puts us in the restless mindset of the characters.

Like many modern farces, Much Ado About Nothing derives most of its comedy from confusion, in this case from rumours being spread about the two couples at the centre of the action. It's a story which is rooted in dramatic irony, in which the audience's enjoyment comes from seeing the characters getting the wrong end of the stick, trying and failing to work things out and creating more havoc as they go. While a first-person Much Ado would make for an intriguing experiment, it's likely that being so close to the action would rob the audience of much of the story's enjoyment.

At the centre of Much Ado About Nothing is the theme of deceptive appearances. The vast majority of the characters are completely different on the surface to how they actually feel: of the protagonists, only Claudio and Hero - to borrow a phrase from Macbeth - have no serpents under their innocent flowers. Don Pedro's plan to bring Benedick and Beatrice together begins as more of a practical joke than anything with more noble intentions. But as the events unfold, these two characters grow to respect and admire each other in spite of whatever differences they had, or believed they had.

Shakespeare is making a comment here on the way that the different genders behave around each other in matters of courtship. He starts from a position where both characters are forthright, almost to extremes - Benedick with his cocky, chauvinistic boasting and Beatrice with her acid wit and low opinion of men. Both characters gradually open up and reveal their insecurities, which come to a head when Beatrice begs Benedick to kill Claudio. They do not entirely lose their nature in the process, but both become more comfortable with each other and their friends as a result of letting their true feelings be expressed without fear of reproach.

There has been some speculation about the relationship enjoyed by Benedick and Beatrice before the events of the play. The decision to interpret one way or the other seems to fall on Beatrice's line: "You always end with a jade's trick. I know you of old." Joss Whedon's recent version took this line and extrapolated the latter part, implying that Benedick and Beatrice had once been lovers. Branagh's interpretation is perhaps more faithful and traditional, using it to indicate that this is not the first time Beatrice would have beaten him in a battle of words.

Branagh's desire to keep the tempo up helps to energise the long soliloquys that both these characters enjoy. In a slower-paced outing, long periods of self-reflection such as these could drag the plot down and rob Shakespeare of his eloquence: part of his appeal is the way his characters conjure up great metaphors at speed, conveying depth without just sitting around, thinking long and hard about what to say. Branagh's monologue about being "horribly in love" is a splendid example; by treating it a stream of consciousness rather than anything more mannered, more of the character's soul and contradictions are revealed.

Even if you don't analyse the emotional turmoils of the central characters, Much Ado About Nothing still holds together as a farce. The title derives from 'noting', meaning overhearing gossip, which in Elizabethan England was pronounced the same as 'nothing'. Branagh captures just how easily people are swayed by what others think of them, turning authority into sources of ridicule for our amusement. But the graver misunderstandings still carry weight, keeping a moral centre to the film in amongst all the frivolity.

The ace in the hole with Branagh's Shakespeare films has always been the casting - not just the roster of impressive names, but his knack for surprising casting decisions which pay off enormously. His own performance as Benedick is brilliant, but it would be mostly in vain if he had not cast his then-wife Emma Thompson opposite him. Thompson strikes a perfect balance with Beatrice, retaining her playful, sunny aspects while keeping her as smart and as sharp as any of the men. The roots of her later resolve in Saving Mr Banks are all here in plain sight, waiting to be appreciated.

Branagh's choices for the supporting cast are equally inspired. Richard Briers is an excellent choice for Leonarto, his warm delivery working to his advantage in one of the more seasoned and wry roles of the play. Denzel Washington is a perfect choice for Don Pedro, making it all the more inexplicable that he has not done more Shakespeare, or more comedy. Casting Keanu Reeves as Don John was a massive gamble, even before he earned a reputation for being wooden, but his cold, clinical portrayal slots into proceedings very nicely. But no choice is more inspired than Michael Keaton as Dogberry. Having already demonstrated his comic potential in Beetlejuice, Keaton plays every line to its fullest and inhabits the part, creating what is probably its definitive portrayal.

Much Ado About Nothing is a majestic slice of cinematic joy which solidifies Branagh's reputation is a Shakespearean par excellence. While it is slightly too long and a trifle silly in places, its few off-kilter moments are more than counteracted by the beautiful visuals, inspired casting and the sheer level of enjoyment which is generated. In short, it explains the appeal of Shakespeare's sense of humour without resorting to any lectures, leaving us with buzzing brains and big smiles on our faces.
April 8, 2015
A fine retelling and the love of the material is obvious.
½ April 5, 2015
Though I'm hardly fond of Shakespeare or gossip, since Much Ado About Nothing was directed by Kenneth Branagh who did a wonderful job with Henry V and Denzel Washington as a central member of the cast, it definitely sounded worth the viewing.

As with most Shakespeare films, deciphering precisely what the hell is going on proves a challenge. While some films like Romeo and Juliet were much more clear because the focus was on the titular characters, Much Ado About Nothing is much more widespread because the story context is complicated and there are a lot of characters to keep up with. And keeping up with them is a lot harder when the language they are speaking is a fractured version of English and you are a person who despises that language for having it drilled into your head by uninspired high school drama classes. There is just so much standing in the way of me fully embracing this film because it is Shakespeare and I despise his works with a passion, and so the test of the film is if it can transcend that. Though I couldn't fully get past the fact that the language and narrative was a challenge for me to decipher, I must once again shower Kenneth Branagh with praise for helping me to enjoy Shakespeare once again.
Kenneth Branagh is the entire reason that I enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing. While the film is significantly more scattered than Henry V, his directorial work is as tenacious as ever. Kenneth Branagh's work on the film is difficult to ignore when it is such a stylish splendour. He truly has a love for the material and is flagrant about showing it, and the fact that I was so caught up in the spirited passion of his directorial work that I was able to overlook the complicated nature of the narrative. I got caught up in the passion of the atmosphere and distracted by the beautiful style of it all, so I will certainly admit that Much Ado About Nothing is one of the best Shakespearian adaptations I have ever seen. It raises my opinion of Kenneth Branagh even further and actually has me willing to watch his four hour adaptation of Hamlet. That should tell you plenty about how much I enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing. To isolate precisely why I enjoyed it, it mostly falls on the style. The film is shot on stellar locations which are just brimming with lively colour, as is the production design and props. Along with the costumes, they all contribute to giving the film a feel of the Elizabethan age in which it was written in while just lighting up the screen for the pleasure of viewers. And as well as looking good, the musical score in the film also gives it the appropriate sense of atmospheric spirit which capitalizes on the melodrama nicely or captures a sense of lightheartedness during other moments. Whatever it may be, Much Ado About Nothing consistently looks and sounds good while the narrative moves along at a rate which keeps things entertaining without ever dragging on.
But the other thing that elevates Much Ado About Nothing is the passionate efforts of the talented cast.
After establishing so much success as the director, producer and writer, Kenneth Branagh has nowhere to go but up as the star of the show. Unsurprisingly, he is able to do that because the infectious energy of the rest of the film leaks over into his performance and he just goes for it without problem. His charm is relentless because he is so physically engaged in the role without forgetting to capture a spirited line delivery, ensuring that he embodies his role inside and out. Kenneth Branagh's performance in Much Ado About Nothing is essentially amalgamated from his work in all the other departments and his natural sense of charisma.
Emma Thompson is also wonderful. Combining her Academy Award winning contemporary charms with a classical style of Shakespearian acting, Emma Thompson is able to achieve success in crafting an interesting character out of Beatrice while sharing a powerful chemistry with Kennneth Branagh. She sucks audiences in with her charms through the technique of her line delivery which is so perfectly spirited that it is hard to turn a blind eye to. Emma Thompson is very much a screen stealer in Much Ado About Nothing as she has no problem grasping the nature of her character or the story and showing off to the camera just how good she is.
But nobody holds a candle to Denzel Washington. In his first cinematic Shakespearian role, Denzel Washington proves that the style of acting is nothing new to him. While he puts in his iconic restrained charm, he really pushes the limits on his character by annunciating every word with such detail and passion, meaning that he captures a captivating balance between over the top and subtle drama. This, combined with his natural sense of charm really makes him a perfect addition to the cast and reminds audience what fans already knew, that Denzel Washington can do anything. Much Ado About Nothing is really an interesting film to see him in.
Robert Sean Leonard is also notable. The young actor has a rather large role in the film, and he steps up to the game extremely well. Though much of his performance is traditional stage melodrama, he mediates that with the understanding that he is in a film. His performance is a strong blend of cinematic and theatrical which never stems away from the Shakespearian nature as he captures the ideal level of melodrama for his character. Robert Sean Leonard has the handsome appeal of a young Matt Dillon and the charisma of a young Kenneth Branagh, and he holds his ground so consistently.
Keanu Reeves' screen time is small, and though his performance has been criticized by many outlets including the Golden Raspberry Awards, I was impressed by his effort. He is over the top in the role, and it is frankly ideal when you consider what Shakespearian acting demands. Michael Keaton was similarly effective in his over the top effort, although in a significantly more comedically oriented manner. It is interesting to see him working in Shakespeare. Brian Blessed is also a genial presence as always.

So while Much Ado About Nothing remains as convoluted as any Shakespearian adaptation, the perfect work of Kenneth Branagh's stylish directorial work and exemplary nature of the cast make for undeniable entertainment.
½ February 27, 2015
Didn't speak to me on any level!
January 20, 2015
Almost worth seeing on the hilarity of Michael Keaton's performance as Dogberry alone, Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing is infectiously energetic achingly funny, punctuated by passionate performances from Emma Thompson and Branagh in the leading roles.
½ January 17, 2015
Definitely one of the best Shakespeare movie adaptations I've seen. Trust Kenneth Branagh to be true and respectful to the source material that made his career what it is today.
½ January 17, 2015
50%
----------
3.5 - Michael Keaton
3.5 - Kenneth Branagh
3.5 - Emma Thompson
3.0 - Denzel Washington
2.5 - Richard Briers
2.5 - Keanu Reeves
2.5 - Brian Blessed
2.5 - Robert Sean Leonard
2.5 - Gerard Horan
2.5 - Richard Clifford
2.5 - Kate Beckinsale
Page 1 of 135