Kenneth Branagh returns to the high and, for him, safe ground of Shakespeare with Much Ado About Nothing, a spirited, winningly acted rendition of one of the Bard’s most popular comedies.
Film is continuously enjoyable from its action-filled opening to the dazzling final shot. Only real drawback is pic’s visual quality, which is unaccountably undistinguished, even ugly, especially considering the sun-drenched Tuscan location.
All should be well in the domain of Leonato (Richard Briers): the righteous Don Pedro (Denzel Washington) helps young Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) woo and win Leonato’s lovely daughter Hero (Kate Beckinsale), while the proudly unmarried Benedick (Branagh) and the feisty Beatrice (Emma Thompson) trade barbs with such zest their teaming is inevitable. But the fly in the ointment is the sulky, jealous Don John (Keanu Reeves), who falsely convinces Claudio of Hero’s unfaithfulness on the eve of their wedding.
Branagh and Thompson bring appealing intelligence and verbal snap to their ongoing sparring. Looking almost as weird as Beetlejuice, Michael Keaton delivers a very alert, surprising turn as the malapropping constable Dogberry.