COMEDY; 1hr 49min
STARRING: Amy Acker, Alex Denisof, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese
Ms adventures: from left, Emma Bates, Morgese and Acker
You can take the stuffing out of Shakespeare but you’ll still be left with zingy wit that hasn’t faded over centuries. The Avengers director Joss Whedon has done that very de-stuffing thing in his sleek updating of the Bard’s resonantly spot-on 16th-century play. With genius intuition, Whedon’s Much Ado is shot in atmospheric black-and-white and filmed in his laidback yet palatial Los Angeles spread. This is a home you immediately want to inhabit, and into which the romantic misadventures of Beatrice and Benedick (Acker and Denisof) and Claudio and Hero (Kranz and Morgese) slot like a Hollywood production designer’s dream.
The Shakespearean spine is there, with a comically smitten Beatrice and Benedick protesting too much and Claudio and Hero’s swoony bliss doomed to an at-the-altar reawakening. That the resolutely modern cast rolls up in limos, suits and cocktail frocks while handling their traditional lines with tossed-off lightness only emphasises the time-honoured truths of male-to-female rules of engagement. This sportive take is light but not that light: beneath its boozy banter, some serious games are played.