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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - May, 2011

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"Much Ado about Nothing" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-may-2011-much-ado-about-nothing

Synopsis

This is a Shakespearian comedy by the great master played on the silver screen by a modern day all-star cast.  The principals are two pairs of lovers Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) and Hero (Kate Beckinsale) and Benedick (Kenneth Branagh) and Beatrice (Emma Thompson).  Claudio and Hero are sweet and innocent young lovers while Benedick and Beatrice are jaundiced toward love.  Claudio is able to connect with Hero with the help of his friend Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon (Denzel Washington).  After Claudio and Hero become engaged, but before their wedding day, they decide to trick Benedick and Beatrice into falling in love.  Benedick and Beatrice had heretofor been in the midst of a sort of cold war.  The trick works and Benedick and Beatrice start developing an interest in one another.  Then the villian of the story, Don John (Keanu Reeves), who is  Don Pedro's illegitimate brother, plots to ruin the wedding between Claudio and Hero.  The rest of the play is is a rollicking comedy with lots of twists and turns which culminates in a celebration of two weddings.

Specifications

  • MGM Studios
  • 1993, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 51 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p, AVC
  • English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Michael Keaton, Robert Sean Leonard, Keanu Reeves, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington and Kate Beckinsale
  • Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: No

Commentary

Kenneth Branagh produced, directed and wrote the screenplay for this film.  He also did a terrific job assembling a star studded cast and telling this tale by William Shakespeare in a context that is accessible to a modern day audience.  He also has the second best performance in this movie as Benedick.  I would give the best performance of the show to his then real-life wife Emma Thompson as Beatrice.  In any event, the movie is mostly bright, cheerful and curiously engaging throughout.  Branagh was able to coax excellent perfomances from the cast in the most unlikely places.  Michael Keaton as Dogberry is a hoot as an example.  And Branagh was so good, he even eked out a respectable performance from Keanu Reeves, certainlty the least likely classical actor in the bunch.  I found Kate Beckinsale to be cute as a button with just the right amount of innocence, a far cry from her more chiseled performances to come later.  This part as Hero was Beckinsale's first really big break as an actress. 

Technical

This is another above average transfer of an MGM Studios catalog title.  The picture was film like with very good contrast.  Daylight scenes really poped with natural color - even the greens looked natural.  The master print had some scratches and dirt that show through clearly on this Blu-ray.  The audio is also above average, even though it was mastered in stereo.  Voices are transparent with no hint of chestiness or, worse yet, nasality.  The music was surprisingly expansive and tangible while the environmental sounds were very convincing.

Extras

This disc has just two extras - The Making of Much Ado About Nothing and the original theatrical trailer.

Included on this disc is a commentary with a few of the supporting actresses, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a LeAnn Rimes video, and the original theatrical trailer.  There are also the following featurettes: “Blond Ambition,” “Pretty in Pink,” Stars and Stripes, Never!,” Hair Apparent,” “Elle’s Anthem,” “Puppy Love,” and “Bruiser’s Outtakes.”