Much Ado About Nothing

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The second of Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare adaptations (following his rousing version of Henry V) is also his most delightfully entertaining, as the director assembles a wonderfully eclectic cast (including Michael Keaton, Denzel Washington, Emma Thompson and Branagh himself) for a lively and sensual take on one of Shakespeare’s best comedies. Set and shot in a gorgeous villa in Tuscany, Much Ado About Nothing is a feast for the eyes, and the attention to detail in Shakespeare’s language makes it heaven for the ears as well. Don Pedro (Denzel Washington), the Prince of Aragon, returns victorious from battle to the praises of the Governor of Messina, Leonato (Richard Briers). One of Don Pedro’s bravest men, Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), falls in love with Hero (Kate Beckinsale), Leonato’s daughter, and they plan to marry. However, Don Pedro’s devious half-brother Don John (Keanu Reeves) opposes the match, and he devises a plan to turn Hero against Claudio. Meanwhile, Benedict (Branagh), Don Pedro’s second-in-command, detests Leonato’s niece Beatrice (Emma Thompson), but Don Pedro cleverly brings them together by making each think that the other is secretly in love with them. Also featuring Michael Keaton in a showy turn as Dogberry. A rich, quotable comedy given cinematic spark by inventive director Branagh, Much Ado About Nothing went on to become a box-office hit and one of the most successful of all Shakespeare adaptations. (Dir. by Kenneth Branagh, 1993, USA, 111 mins., Rated PG-13) 35mm