"Man is a giddy thing." And where can man be more giddy than playing with one of William Shakespeare's most fun plays at a splendid home in Santa Monica, California?
If you're looking for a giddy time and some honest laughter, go check out Joss Whedon's modern take on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The 400-year-old play was the basis for most romantic comedies of its day, and still tends to be vastly superior to most rom-coms that Hollywood produces these days.
The story focuses on two stubbornly witty characters who scorn love and two doe-eyed romantics who embrace it, leading us into a comedy of errors and boozy fun. The cast is made up of veterans from Whedon's various films and television shows. Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) manages to masterfully pull off his role as the proud bachelor Benedick, and Amy Acker (Angel) is hilarious as the proud bachelorette Beatrice. Whedon's own home plays the role of the home of the frequently-inebriated Governor Leonato, played by Clark Gregg (The Avengers).
While the film is not especially noteworthy for its production values or seriousness in approaching Shakespeare's source text, it makes up for all of that by being just downright fun. Comedy works best when those presenting it to us are just as caught up in the laughter as we are. Actors work best when they are able to enjoy their craft. Much Ado accomplishes both.
Denisof's Benedick delivers his ardent and manly argument against marriage from the confines of a little girl's bedroom. Acker's Beatrice hilariously stumbles up and down steps in her efforts to eavesdrop on rumors of Benedick's love for her. Nathan Fillion (Firefly) and Tom Lenk (Buffy) are side-splittingly hilarious as the bumbling constables Dogberry and Verges. Fillion in particular steals every single scene that he is in. Let it be known that he is an ass! Dogberry's character shows that Shakespeare created Michael Scott long before The Office came about.
Whedon is known to hold Shakespeare readings with his friends at his home. One can imagine that food and booze are usually involved with these events, and with the informal setting of friends getting together to play with the Bard, they are bound to be fun. Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing is almost like getting invited to one of these readings and being able to join in on that fun.
Beyond the comedy, this story is a look at love, society, perception, deception, and sexuality. However, it is a comedy with a happy ending and not an ounce of tragedy. Joss Whedon approached playing with Shakespeare's lighthearted tale in an endearing and enjoyable way (with a slight 1940s, film noir feel to it). If you're looking for a laugh and a good time on a midsummer eve, get thee to a theater.