On Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing

Steve Mollmann wrote in the comments, ” I figured out who Robert Sean Leonard [was]. He’s the guy who ruined Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing. OK, so it was Keanu Reeves who ruined it. But Leonard didn’t exactly help.”

Ah, Branagh’s Much Ado.

Visit Target and you’ll probably see the DVD cheap. Five or six dollars cheap. Which is how I saw it about two years ago.


I sort of liked the film. Sort of. It wasn’t a great film. It was decent, generally inoffensive.

Keanu Reeves was probably the wrong guy for the villain of the piece. Wait, delete that “probably.” He was the wrong guy for the villain of the piece.

But even Keanu wasn’t the worst performer in the film.

Kate Beckinsale was terrible. Beckinsale looks great in anything, but she can’t act for toffee, and Much Ado was no exception. Maybe in Much Ado it was supposed to make sense, her and Robert Sean Leonard, because both were supposed to be young characters, falling in love for the first time, and so lacking in emotional maturity and social poise. But! No chemistry! No conviction! Pretty poor acting on both sides.

I liked Michael Keaton’s Dogberry. Indeed, when reading Harry Turtledove’s Ruled Britannia, it’s impossible not to envision Constable Walter Strawberry as Keaton’s Dogberry. (Actually, it’s impossible not to envision Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare in the novel, too. Damn you, Shakespeare in Love! Damn you all to hell!)

And it had Denzel Washington, in a very un-Denzel-like role which he nailed with an effortlessness that makes the head spin.

I’d call Much Ado pretty much a miss for Branagh in his catalog of Shakespeare adaptations.

I’ve had this mad dream a time or three, that Branagh decided to mount a film production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, with Stephen Fry in the Falstaff role. But, rather than a conventional period production, Branagh decides to stage the film–

In Klingon.

So, Stephen Fry in full Klingon regalia, with a bumpy forehead.


Madness, I tell you. Madness!

Come to think of it, though, I do think Fry would make a convincing Falstaff. In a conventional, English production of the play.

Enough about The Merry Wives.

What did I say about Much Ado? Pretty much a miss. Despite that, I find I can’t bring myself to part with the DVD. Oh, I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, unless I’ve really nothing else better to do, but on the off-chance I need some Brian Blessed and The Black Adder won’t suffice Much Ado may find its use after all.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

4 thoughts on “On Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing

  1. Leonard was fine, as long as he wasn’t trying to express emotions. I nearly laughed when he got mad during the first marriage scene. Denzel was good, and BRIAN BLESSED was fun to watch as usuaul, usually because he was grinning and laughing like a loon in ever scene.

    I liked Branagh’s Benedick, but Thompson’s Beatrice was weak. The two actors who played the couple in the 1984 BBC version had much better chemistry. And besides, the BBC version had Waiting for God‘s Graham Crowden as the Friar, and you can’t beat that.


  2. I’m a little hit-or-miss on Emma Thompson. I thought she was fantastic in Dead Again. Other times she comes across a bit flat. Frankly, I’m glad she wasn’t in Branagh’s Hamlet.

    That said, a few years ago when Pierce Brosnan was talking the madness of remaking Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Emma Thompson was the only actress I could really envision filling Diana Rigg’s shoes in OHMSS.

  3. Haven’t seen Much Ado, but the 1930s-style musical version of Love’s Labour’s Lost was on TV the other day. I kept alternating between “this is just so completely wrong” and being unexpectedly captivated by it. I’m glad I watched it but I won’t be hunting down a copy for my DVD collection.

  4. I didn’t think Much Ado was a miss, but I agree on Beckinsale and Leonard.

    But I hated Keaton as Dogberry, especially since they cast Ben Elton as his sidekick, and I kept thinking about how much better Elton (who was pretty much doing Dogberry’s sidekick as Baldrick anyhow) would’ve been.


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