Da'ud Bob's Movie Review
February 2020

It is always a pleasure to see another good production of one of Shakespeare’s plays. It doesn’t matter if they change the setting; it doesn’t matter if they change the time period; it doesn’t matter if they add some modern songs into the mix. If the production is well-done, I’m there! I will sit and watch and enjoy the whole thing, and usually learn something new, because the director has accented something in the play in a way that I hadn’t seen before. So when I saw that Great Performances on PBS was going to be broadcasting a “bold interpretation” of one of “Shakespeare’s comedic masterpiece[s]”, you know that I was going to watch it! And review it for you! Never mind that I already own (and have reviewed for you) two other versions of this same play. (I mean, really! To mention only two of his plays, I own seven – soon to be eight – different productions of Hamlet, and six of Macbeth, plus some foreign films merely based on those plays. “Hi, I’m Da’ud Bob, and I am a Shakespeare-aholic.”) Anyway, the scheduled night and time came, so I plopped myself down in my big ol’ La-Z-Bubba recliner, notepad and pen in hand, and thus it is that this month, Da’ud Bob reviews for you The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park summer of 2019 production, filmed at the outdoor Delacorte Theater in New York City’s Central Park, Much Ado About Nothing.

Directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon (“American Son,” “A Raisin in the Sun”), and starring an all-black cast including Danielle (“Orange is the New Black,” Broadway’s “The Color Purple”) Brooks as Beatrice, Grantham (“Buzzer,” “The Americans”) Coleman as Benedick, Chuck Cooper as Leonato, Jeremie Harris as Claudio,  Tyrone Mitchell Henderson as Friar Francis/Sexton, Tiffany Denise Hobbs as Ursula, Lateefah Holder as Dogberry, Billy Eugene Jones as Don Pedro, Margaret Odette as Hero, Hubert Point-Du Jour as Don John, Jaime Lincoln Smith as Borachio, and Olivia Washington as Margaret, in this comedy of romantic retribution and miscommunication we find the community of Aragon, Georgia in the spring of 2020 (see? I told you the setting and time period were changed) celebrating a break from an ongoing war. But not all is peaceful amid the revelry, as old rivals engage in a battle of wits, unexpected foes plot revenge, and young lovers are caught in a tumultuous courtship - until love proves the ultimate trickster, and undoes them all.

Good points: It’s Shakespeare! It’s Shakespeare’s words, though with the added touch of black American cadence, inflections, and head and hand gestures giving additional meaning and depth to the words. (As only example: Beatrice in Act I: “I wonder that you are still talking, Sir Bene-dick.”) The music and the songs. (For example, the medley of “What’s Goin’ On” and “America the Beautiful”.) The dancing. Beatrice hiding in the audience, holding an open Playbill to cover her face.

Bad points: Well, if you don’t care for recorded stage plays, even though recorded from multiple angles, you might not like this as much. I didn’t have that problem; it was very well done. Though Lateefah Holder as Dogberry was very good, my favorite Dogberry is still Michael Keaton.

Zero breasts. No blood. No dead bodies. Jealousy fu. Defamation fu. Slap fu. Plots roll. Beatrice rolls. Dogberry rolls. Gratuitous pushups. Gratuitous police whistle. Academy Award nominations (or should they really be Tony Award nominations, since it’s a live play in New York?) to Danielle Brooks as Beatrice for everything she does in the role and for her wonderful rendition of “What’s Goin’ On” in the finale; to Grantham Coleman as Benedick for bringing such energy to the role; and to Lateefah Holder as Dogberry for being able to talk nonsense with such earnestness. A paltry 16 on the Vomit Meter. A coveted Four (****) Stars. Da’ud Bob says, “I think I have a new favorite version of this play. Check it out!”


Upcoming movies and miniseries to watch for!

The Last Duel
December 25, 2020, or January 8, 2021
Set in 14th century France, the movie is an epic tale of betrayal and justice, told from three distinct points of view: two knights (Matt Damon and Adam Driver) whose bond is tested by treachery and a young woman (Jodie Comer) forced to navigate the brutal and oppressive culture of the era in order to survive. Directed by Ridley Scott, from a screenplay written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

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