Much Ado About Nothing
The major criteria for my viewing of an adaptation of Shakespeare is how well the director and actors interpret the script. We have the "writer's cut" of each play, as the original performances were shorter, but a full length presntation is three hours, at a steady pace. I am unsure about others, but the difficult language and poetry slows down my comprehension, let alone the centuries-old puns. So I need an interpretation, whether on stage or screen, that pauses, allowing me to catch up, and uses all tools at hand to explain the script. Not just the plot, but the jokes as well.
In this, Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing is as good as it gets. Clearly the script is edited for length's sake, but each line is given it's due, and a proper context for comprehension and enjoyment. Perhaps it has a little too much mugging for the camera, and they spend a bit too much time setting up some scenes, but it all works for the clear presentation of a difficult script. And I know it's difficult because this play is much different than Joss Whedon's adaptation a few years ago, which was mostly incomprehensable. Branagh and his team pull every stop to make a fun presentation of all that Shakespeare is about. The songs, the costumes, the acting, the setting, it all works together.
And then we come to the script. I find Shakespeare's comedies, with one exception (AMND), to be little more than sitcom-level entertainment. Fun, but rarely laugh-out-loud, and, of course, his situations and lines have been used for centuries. Generally, I find them tiresome. But watching these performers are not. These are some of my favorite performers of the last 20... dare I say 25?... years. Most of them have done better work, but it is fun to see them cheerful and energetic. Three performances really pushed ahead: Emma Thompson, of course, who speaks the acidic wit as if she were born to it. Keanu Reeves, who rolls the Elizabethian words naturally off his villianous tongue. And, surprisingly, Michael Keaton, who stole the show with his idiot clown.
Not a favorite play, but one of the best Shakespeare adaptations I've seen.