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'Avengers' director Whedon takes on the Bard

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By Becca Owsley

When a two-week break from shooting a blockbuster superhero film such as “The Avengers” rolls around, one would think a director would settle down for some much-needed rest.

Not Joss Whedon.

Instead, he invited some of his friends to his house to film Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

The film reportedly was shot in 12 days at Whedon’s Santa Monica, Calif., home.

The cast basically is a reunion of actors who have been in his previous productions.

The stars have been in a variety of Whedon projects. Amy Acker (Beatrice) was in “Angel,” “Dollhouse” and “The Cabin in the Woods” and Alex Denisof (Benedick) appeared in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Dollhouse” and “The Avengers.”

Other familiar faces are Nathan Fillion — Captain Malcolm Reynolds of “Firefly” fame — as Dogberry, who also was in Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” and “Buffy”; and Clark Gregg — Agent Coulson of “The Avengers” — as Leonato. 

Other Whedon connections are Ashley Johnson (“Dollhouse,” “The Avengers”), Sean Maher (“Firefly”), Riki Lindhome (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Fran Kranz (“Dollhouse,” “The Cabin in the Woods”) and Tom Lenk (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “The Cabin in the Woods”).

That’s a lot of Whedon alumni.

All these connections add up to a cast that appeared to have fun while shooting the Bard comedy.

Whedon stays true to the original Shakespearian text, so be prepared not to understand half of what is said. What Whedon added to the play is his brand of wit, influencing how lines are delivered and adding comedic elements to the background.

The same humor that made viewers roar when The Hulk unexpectedly punches Thor in “The Avengers” has characters in “Much Ado About Nothing” plot madly against one another and then one sneaks a cupcake off the wedding table as he leaves.

These small comedic nuances are part of Whedon’s style.

But, as in many modern adaptations, Whedon decided to show on screen what is alluded to in the Shakespearean language. In other words, as Shakespeare would carefully hint at sex, Whedon showed it. He should have given audiences a chance to get the joke the way Shakespeare intended instead of falling prey to showing it all onscreen.

Other than that, the film is light and fair to the Shakespearean comedy. It’s shot in back and white and, while no time period is given to the film, it has a 1960s style.

Whedon also composed music for the movie. Yes, he can do that, too.
By shooting at his home, Whedon is offering a personal glimpse into his life and into his passion for filmmaking.

Vampires, superheroes, toys named Woody and Buzz or Shakespeare — this guy can do it all.

Becca Owsley can be reached at 270- 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com. For movie reviews visit her reporter page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Becca-Owsley/96924584861.