Beatrice Emma Thompson
Benedick Kenneth Branagh
Claudio Robert Sean Leonard
Don Pedro Denzel Washington
Don John Keanu Reeves
Hero Kate Beckinsale
Leonato Richard Briers
Dogberry Michael Keaton
Barachio Gerard Horan
Margaret Imelda Staunton
What a delightful film based on Shakespeare's comedy. The casting was a complete success. With husband and wife stars – Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson – the witty exchanges between Benedick and Beatrice were quick and lively. Kate Beckinsale makes her film debut in the role of the sweet maid Hero. Denzel Washington was perfectly charming and dashing as Don Pedro. Keanu Reeves was a thoroughly believable surly villain, and Michael Keaton plays a fool to perfection.
A story of two love affairs and one bitter feud between half brothers, Kenneth Branagh does an incredible job of bringing this play to the screen. Shakespeare wrote tremendous parts full of wit and humor. When his work is done well, it is great fun. This was done well.
Benedick and Beatrice are self avowed bachelor and bachelorette. His friend, Claudio, and her cousin, Hero, are sweetly in love, however, and the upcoming wedding brings out the matchmaker in everyone around them. While Benedick and Beatrice exchange barbed and witty insults, their friends and relatives plot to make them fall in love. Conversations are perfectly timed for eavesdropping. The victims are led to believe each is secretly adored by the other. While this surprises Benedick and Beatrice, the gossip is actually truth all the way around. They do love one another.
Don Pedro's half brother, Don John is intent on causing trouble, however. The cause of his hatred for his brother is never explained, but he's willing to take it out on everyone around Don Pedro. Don John's friend, Barachio pretends to have a loving encounter with Hero on her balcony in order to upset the wedding plans. In truth, it is Hero's maid, Margaret, that Barachio makes love to. Don John arranges to have Claudio witness the lovemaking which devastates Claudio. He waits for Hero to walk down the aisle before revealing her betrayal in front of all their guests. Don John is delighted with his work and leaves town.
Claudio is told that Hero, in her innocence, has died as a result of the false accusations. Beatrice asks Benedick to call Claudio out, fighting him in defense of Hero's innocence. He reluctantly is persuaded.
Surprisingly, Dogberry's guard uncovers the dirty deeds perpetrated against the virginal Hero. However, Dogberry is known for his foolishness. He rides a pretend horse, after all. He even provides sound effects while he does so. It seems realistic to believe no one will know of this important evidence.
Shakespeare wasn't out of surprises, however. A faked death, impersonator bride and an awkward trial is involved; all working perfectly together to wrap up a wonderful romantic Shakespearean comedy.
I paid for the video rental service that provided this DVD. I was not compensated for my review.