This version of this story is for people who like the good kinds of flirting, the good kinds of coupling, and the good kinds of drinking. It's mostly light in...in kind of a light jazz way, which is good because even William Shakespeare knew that to take this story too seriously would make it collapse and make the audience go You've got to be kidding. And I like that Whedon, in his slightly perverse way, decided to go light by doing Shakespeare comedy, where at least characters only pretend to die. No doomed couples here!
This film feels comfortable and homemade (literally: Whedon shot it in two weeks at his own house, which his impressive wife Kai Cole had designed), with a bunch of actors who seem to truly enjoy each others' company: they get to banter and still show real emotion and connection underneath that.
The film starts out quietly, taking its time to establish the rhythm of the 16th-century dialogue in this 21st-century setting before the story starts to get really goofy. When the story does, the physical comedy starts, and it's winning physical comedy: Alexis Denisof as Benedick literally throws himself into it, in a scene where he eavesdrops on a conversation about how Amy Acker's Beatrice is utterly into him. Ah, there's pleasure in good actors acting like people acting...
And there's pleasure in this acting just in general. Just a few examples: I haven't yet seen much of Fran Kranz, other than his heroic stoner in the insane Joss Whedon-Drew Goddard horror film The Cabin in the Woods, so seeing his increasingly emotional and dramatic turn as Claudio -- the poor guy who gets tricked into believing his future wife Hero is sleeping around -- is a happy surprise. Amy Acker, clearly relishing the meat in this role, manages physical comedy that also made me go "Oh no!" and worry for her Beatrice. Clark Gregg, a recent addition to the Whedon stable of actors (via The Avengers and the upcoming TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), is a big help at grounding this ridiculous story: his Leonato feels like a kind leader, one whom those close to him want to support. I think Leonato would be a fantastic boss, and a fantastic family member.
Much Ado About Nothing is mostly light, nicely sexy, comfortably quiet, often hilarious and just an all-around pleasure.