Amy Acker (left) and Jillian Morgese add lots of charm to modern-dress Shakespeare adaptation.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING written and directed by Joss Whedon, based on the play by William Shakespeare, with Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Reed Diamond, Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion. An Alliance Films release. 108 minutes. Opens Friday (June 14). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
Shot in 12 days during the post-production of Marvel's The Avengers, Joss Whedon's appealing modern-dress adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy of romantic errors doesn't quite solve the problems inherent in translating a very static play to the screen. But it's populated by such charming actors - especially Angel stars Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof as squabbling should-be lovers Beatrice and Benedick, and Avengers stalwart Clark Gregg as Leonato - that you probably won't mind.
Whedon's hand-held black-and-white aesthetic quickly distinguishes his take from Kenneth Branagh's more insistently polished 1993 version. It also gives the actors a bit of cover when they struggle with the text. As Don Pedro and Claudio, Dollhouse veterans Reed Diamond and Fran Kranz turn out to have the best handle on the dialogue, and Riki Lindhome offers the best reading of "Here, man, I am at thy elbow" I've ever heard.
Unlike that superhero movie, Much Ado won't set the box-office on fire, but of course that's not why it exists. It's a labour of love, and the affection with which it's been produced is contagious.