Story

Much Ado about Nothing is a romantic comedy. It’s adapted by director and writer Joss Whedon from William Shakespeare’s famous play of the same name. Although it’s set in a contemporary context, the language and plot are largely unchanged from the play.

The movie is about the relationship between Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker), two fierce and independent people who have vowed never to marry. After being tricked by their friends into thinking that each is deeply in love with the other, the two begin to warm to each other. Ultimately they let go of their pride so they can be together.

The story’s subplot involves villainous Don John (Sean Maher) trying to destroy his brother’s family and friends. He tries to prevent a happy marriage between young lovers Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese) by tricking Claudio into thinking that Hero is being unfaithful. Don John’s plan is eventually discovered and the story moves towards a happy conclusion for more than one couple.

Themes

Deception; love and fidelity; gender and double standards; public shaming of women

Violence

This movie includes some violence and/or threats of violence:

  • On her wedding day Hero is publicly shamed for being unfaithful. Her father Leonato tells her that ‘if they speak the truth, these hands shall tear thee’. He threatens violence and says that she would be better off dead if she has been unfaithful.
  • Beatrice shouts angrily at a Benedick after her cousin Hero is wrongfully shamed. Beatrice says that if she were a man, she would ‘eat another heart’ out of revenge.
  • Benedick slaps Claudio across the face and tells him he is a villain, because Claudio has caused Hero’s heartbreak.
  • When Don John tells Claudio about Hero’s unfaithfulness, Claudio angrily shouts at Don John and shoves him against a wall. Claudio puts one arm under Don John’s chin and presses down on his neck.
  • Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio for his treatment of Hero. Benedick agrees, although in the end he doesn’t need to.
  • After being arrested, Conrade keeps hitting Dogberry and shouting, ‘You are an ass’.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the violent scenes described above. 

From 8-13

Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the violent scenes described above. 

Over 13

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie. 

Sexual references

This movie has a few sexual references. For example:

  • Don John sets out to cause trouble, telling Claudio that the woman he loves is ‘The Lord’s Hero … every man’s Hero’. Don John is suggesting that Hero has been unfaithful with many men.
  • Claudio believes Don John and confronts Hero on the day of their wedding. He says that she ‘knows the warm bed’ and ‘rages in savage sexuality’. He goes on to say that he ‘will not give [his] soul to a wanton’. 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie shows quite a lot of substance use. For example:

  • During the first party, many of the guests drink wine and champagne. They all carry glasses with them, while a few guests (such as Claudio) drink entire shot glasses of alcohol.
  • The characters toast in celebration many times. For example, Claudio, Hero, Beatrice and Don Pedro all toast to the newly announced marriage between Claudio and Hero.
  • Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato all drink shots as they plan to play ‘love gods’ and make a match between Benedick and Beatrice.
  • Conrad smokes a marijuana joint when she secretly meets with Boratio at night.
  • Claudio and Don Pedro drink from a flask. 

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie has some sexual activity. For example:

  • Don John has an intimate scene with Conrade. He climbs on top of her while she is lying down on a bed, spreads her legs and begins touching and kissing her breasts. They then kiss passionately before they are interrupted by a knock on the door.
  • While the main characters talk in the kitchen, the maid Margaret begins kissing a man. He touches her body and breasts while pushing her against the wall and kissing her neck. They eventually run off together as the other characters keep talking.
  • There are flashback sex scenes between Beatrice and Benedick. Both are seen without clothes on, although Beatrice is in lingerie, while they kiss and make love.
  • Boratio seduces Margaret to trick Claudio into believing that Hero has been unfaithful. They have sex in Hero’s room, but remain fully clothed (because Boratio has asked Margaret to wear Hero’s clothes).
  • Several of the characters kiss passionately, including Claudio and Hero and Benedick and Beatrice.

Product placement

None of concern 

Coarse language

This movie has some coarse language, including frequent name-calling in Shakespearean language. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Much Ado about Nothing is the latest version of this Shakespearean romance. The movie is most likely to appeal to adults. Its themes, sex scenes and sexual references make it more suited to children aged 15 years and over.

The movie is about the way people want to connect with each other and form lasting relationships.

The movie suggests that people who hurt others will be punished, but people who make honest mistakes will ultimately find happiness. For example, Don John is captured and punished for his crimes, but the lovers all end up happy. The movie also suggests that sometimes it’s better to follow your heart than your head, and that you shouldn’t allow pride to rule your life. The movie emphasises the importance of forgiveness, trust and honesty in a relationship.

You could talk with your children about the gender double standards and gender inequality shown in the movie.