Monday Movie: Much Ado About Nothing
One of the many wonderful things about Kenneth Branagh’s new version of Cinderella is its endearingly goofy sense of humor. A seemingly improvised bit of nonsense concerning a portrait artist stands out, as do the surprising comedic talents of Richard Madden, who was largely required to mope his way through his time on Game of Thrones. But, when it comes to Branagh, despite his reputation as current cinema’s most opulent Shakespearian, comedy has always been in his arsenal.
In 1993, Branagh proved as much when he adapted Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The play is one of the all-time great examples of romantic comedy but Branagh ramped up the latter descriptor without losing sight of the former.
This is most evident in Michael Keaton’s go-for-broke performance as Dogberry, a career highlight in a career filled with highlights. Keaton and Branagh aren’t content to just highlight Dogberry’s malapropisms and hilariously unearned bravado. They also go full Monty Python with his imaginary horse. And that’s not even mentioning Keaton’s demented pirate voice.
More important to the story of the film and to Branagh’s approach as a director, though, is the sniping relationship between Benedick (Branagh) and Beatrice (Emma Thompson). Branagh understands that humor is as natural a part of life as any other emotion. Benedick and Beatrice aren’t just funny characters in a play who love each other. They are characters who love each other in large part because they make each other laugh.