Much Ado About Nothing (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 15, 2011 by  

“Much Ado About Nothing” is a delightful, fun and entertaining comedy based on the William Shakepeare play.  Featuring an all-star cast and a magnificent performance by Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson!  If you are a fan of this film, it’s definitely worth upgrading to Blu-ray.

Images courtesy of © 1993 Renaissance Films, PLC and the Samuel Goldwyn Company. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Much Ado About Nothing


DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen (1:85:1), English 2.0 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

COMPANY: MGM/Twentieth Century Fox

RATED: PG-13 (Momentary Sensuality)

RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2011

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Play by William Shakespeare

Screenplay by Kenneth Branagh

Produced by Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Evans, David Parfitt

Music by Patrick Doyle

Cinematography by Roger Lanser

Edited by Andrew Marcus

Casting by Pam Dixon

Production Design by Tim Harvey

Art Direction by Martin Childs

Costume Design by Phylis Dalton


Richard Briers as Leonato

Kate Beckinsale as Hero

Imelda Staunton as Margaret

Jimmy Yuill as Friar Francis

Brian Blessed as Antonio

Andy Hockley as George Seacole

Chris Barnes as Francis Seacole

Conrad Nelson as Hugh Oatcake

Phillida Law as Ursula

Emma Thompson as Beatrice

Alex Lowe as Messenger

Denzel Washington as Don Pedro

Keanu Reeves as Don John

Richard Clifford as Conrade

Gerard Horan as Borachio

Robert Sean Leonard as Claudio

Kenneth Branagh as Benedick

Patrick Doyle as Balthazar

Michael Keaton as Verges

“Young lovers Hero and Claudio, soon to wed, conspire to get verbal sparring partners and confirmed singles Benedick and Beatrice to wed as well.

William Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” has entertained many generations since its first earliest recorded performance back in 1612-1613.

In 1993, actor and director Kenneth Branagh (“Thor”, “Henry V”, “Hamlet”) took the story and created a film adaptation featuring an all star cast which includes Kenneth Branagh, Denzel Washington, Emma Thompson, Keanu Reeves, Michael Keaton, Kate Beckinsale and many more.  The film made about $36 million worldwide and was one of the most financially successful Shakespeare films released.

The film was nominated for a “Palme d’Or” at the Cannes Film Festival and also “Best Motion Picture” for a Golden Globe.

“Much Ado About Nothing” takes place in Messina, Italy and Don Pedro of Aragon (played by Denzel Washington) and his nobleman have stopped an uprising and are planning to stop by in Messina.  Leonato (played by Richard Briers), the governor of Messina are thrilled with what the men have accomplished and have given the welcome to stay in Messina for a month.

Leonato’s niece Beatrice (played by Emma Thompson) is a sharp-tongue misandrist has history with Benedick (played by Kenneth Branagh) and both are literally oil and water.  An arrogant man, Benedick also has a sharp-tongue towards Beatrice and are constantly at each other’s throats.

Meanwhile, the young Claudio (played by Robert Sean Leonard) is in love with Hero (played by Kate Beckinsale), the only daughter of Governor Leonato.  And for Claudio, he is happy to be back in Messina, so both can finally marry.  Benedick tries to dissuade him from marriage, while Don Pedro supports it.

Eventually, Claudio and Hero, as well as Benedick and Beatrice grow closer in love and for Don John, the man (played by Keanu Reeves), the bastardly, illegitimate brother of Don Pedro who is dissatisfied with life can not take the happiness of others and secretly hates his brother Don Pedro.

So Don John will do all he can to destroy the happiness in town and that means, destroying the potential of any marriage between Claudio and Hero.

Together with Borachio and Conrade, the two come up with a plan to make Claudio think that Hero is not the woman he thinks she is.  The night before the wedding, they plan to have one of the men be with another woman and while Claudio and Don Pedro are nearby, the men who is with another woman will pretend it is Hero and call out her name.

Needless to say, Don John successfully makes Claudio believe that Hero is unfaithful, so on the day of the wedding, Claudio condemns Hero and because of her unfaithfulness, the penalty in the village is death. Hero tries to plead that she was with no man, but both Claudio including Don Pedro insist they saw her with a man with their own eyes and she deserves punishment.

So, as Hero is condemned to death, and for this…Beatrice wants to kill Claudio but Benedick will not allow it.  Beatrice asks of him, if they are truly in love, that he will fight Claudio in Hero’s good name.

And according to the villages rules, apparently Hero has been punished and killed.  But what will happen when the truth comes out that Hero was innocent and someone known to them is the true mastermind of this unhappiness?


“Much Ado About Nothing” is presented in 1080p (widescreen 1:85:1).  Similar to recent catalog releases from MGM/Twentieth Century Fox, I do believe that this Blu-ray release is based on a HD master which was created for DVD.  There are times where this film looks of its age and some areas where it looks very good (where you can see the detail on the clothing and surroundings) and at times where it looks like an old film with a lot of noise.

The film also has its share of dust and speckles and for the most part, while “Much Ado About Nothing” is a step up from its original DVD counterpart, the picture quality is a little better but this is one release where PQ is not so consistent and it’s a shame because the film utilizes beautiful set and costume design and felt the PQ could have looked much better. Especially since there are so many outdoor sequences and closeups, you would hope to expect much more in HD.  But for fans of the film, it is a step up from DVD, it’s just not a huge step.  It’s average.


“Much Ado About Nothing” is presented in English 2.0 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround and French Dolby Surround.  As one would expect from a Shakespearean film in prose, you want the dialogue to be clear and understandable and fortunately because of the lossless soundtrack, every spoken word is crystal clear. I didn’t notice any ambiance, considering there were many outdoor shots but for the most part, for a Shakespeare film, the soundtrack was appropriate.

As dialogue is important, so is music and music does play a  big part in this film especially the talent who sing in this film which include Patrick Doyle singing “Sigh No More Ladies” and “Pardon, Goddess of the Night”.  The music is beautiful and comes out quite clearly through the front-channels as well.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.


“Much Ado About Nothing” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Ado About Nothing(6:05) The making of Much Ado About Nothing featured in standard definition.  Director Kenneth Branagh and the cast talk about their character and being a part of a film based on a Shakespearean play.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:25) Featuring the original theatrical trailer to “Much Ado About Nothing”.

When it comes to films that are adaptations of William Shakespeare’s work, needless to say, there are people who will watch them and enjoy them, while Shakespeare may not be too accessible for a lot of people and they stay away from it.

When “Much Ado About Nothing” was released in theaters, while it did make $36 million in box offices worldwide and it was considered a positive for box office returns for a Shakespeare film adaptation, there are those who loved it and those who were not really into it.  In fact, the casting of Keanu Reeves of Don John and Michael Keaton as Dogberry was not well-received.

For me, I enjoyed “Much Ado About Nothing” for the sake that the film was able to capture the story and the characters quite well.  Including the emotional moments and the humor.  But I do agree, there were some actors that I did feel were miscast and while it didn’t ruin my appreciation for the film, it helps when you have talent such as Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson doing a wonderful job.  They never miss a beat with their characters and their continuous dialogue was well-performed.

While I do have “Much Ado About Nothing” sitting on my bookshelf, I have not read a lot of my Shakespeare books in full (I played Hamlet in High School and read three plays but that’s about it), so I can’t discuss how much was left out.  So, I felt the pacing was missing something, when it came to the villainous Don John.  His plan succeeded but then he disappears until the final moment in the film?  Was that how it was supposed to be?

Granted, the film does focus on the anguish of Claudio but it made me wonder how Don Pedro had felt by condemning an innocent young woman.  Denzel Washington is a fine actor but I often felt that the moments of regret, weren’t felt with his character at all. And I do agree, that Keanu Reeves was miscast for the role.  Bare in mind, this is before Reeves was in the “Matrix” films and “Much Ado About Nothing” came out two years after his film “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey”.

But I did feel that “Much Ado About Nothing” was a delightful and enjoyable film.  The set design including the costume design was magnificent and for the most part, as much as this film does have an all-star cast, the film builds upon the performance of Branagh and Thompson and both did a remarkable job.

As for the Blu-ray release, unfortunately, it’s an average release.  Nothing new added in terms of special features and the picture quality, while a step-up from DVD has its share of problems as it does have quite a bit of dust and speckles throughout the film and possibly the original film’s elements were not in the best shape for some scenes as the film looks as if it had aged a bit.  But I do know that there are some scenes that do look magnificent and for the most part, I am confident that fans of the film will probably be happy with the film now being released in HD and much it being much better than its DVD counterpart.

Overall, “Much Ado About Nothing” is a William Shakespeare comedy that has entertained generation after generation for over 400-years.  There are those who will watch this and enjoy it and there are those who probably will read the name “Shakespeare” and plan to stay clear of it.

But if you are open to Shakespeare film adaptations, I do feel that the film was tastefully done but it does have its problems and even miscast for a few talent.  But in the end, I found “Much Ado About Nothing” to be quite fun and delightful and worth checking out.

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