The romantic comedy is back.
It took only 400 years.
“Much Ado About Nothing,” Joss Whedon’s larky adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play that opens Friday, transposes the action from 17th-century Sicily to modern-day Santa Monica, where in Whedon’s sprightly re-imagining, the verbally sparring Beatrice and Benedick fall in love in the director’s own modern mission-style home, amid shots of tequila, beeping iPhones and scads of political intrigue.
But Shakespeare’s play — with its deceptions, schemes, setbacks and ultimate victory of true love — also serves as a sobering reminder of how romantically impoverished mainstream American cinema has become. “Much Ado,” which for decades served as the classic template for bickering couples such as Hepburn and Tracy, Day and Hudson and Ryan and Hanks, has gradually devolved into “Nothing.” Ask hard-core romantic comedy fans for the best recent example of a big-studio romantic comedy and they’re likely to squint and strain before maybe mentioning “The Proposal,” a creaking Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds vehicle from 2009. . .