Kenneth Branagh's adaption of Much Ado About Nothing is a sheer delight to watch. I first saw it six years ago to prepare for a performance of it at school. The whole class fell in love with the film and while it may fall behind Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet in pure greatness, it soars ahead in sheer fun and exuberance.
As with Hamlet from 3 years later, the set is moved forward a few hundred years which just gives a fresh and vibrant touch to the film. Branagh himself plays Benedick and the chemistry between him and his (then) wife Emma Thompson as Beatrice makes you wonder why they could ever have split up. It is the war of words between these two that provide some of the main highlights of the film, especially their initial exchange:
Benedick: 'God keep your lady in that so some man may 'scape a pre-destinate scratched face'.
Beatrice: 'Scratching could not make it worse onto such a face as yours'.
Benedick: 'Well you are a rare parrot teacher'.
Beatrice: 'A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of your tongue'
Benedick: 'I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue'.
Branagh is also not afraid to throw in American actors and their effect ranges from the fish in water (Denzel Washington's Don Pedro), to the aquittable Keanu Reeves to the outstanding thespian but altogether too Yankee Robert Sean Leonard. However the real American star of the film is Michael Keaten with his sidekick Ben Elton who give a Monty Pythonesque twist to Dogsberry and Verges.
Branagh directs the film with style and his choice of music is outstanding. The all-star cast deliver as expected and it all adds up to one of my alltime favourite films.
One little criticism is the actual DVD itself. There are no extras whatsoever; it would have been nice to hear Branagh's views on the film. And although the scene selection by 'act' is quaint, it is annoying trying to find one particular scene.
Do not let that disuade you though, watching this film on a flip book while listening to it on tape would be enough. It is a beautifully written and performed play.