As a result of his love for music (and probably the film’s budget) Joss Whedon decided to score the film himself, an approach that has worked wonders in recent years for directors Tom Tykwer and Alejandro Amenábar. And so to anyone who thinks otherwise, Joss Whedon once again points out that there is nothing he can’t do. To be fair, he almost succeeds.…
I certainly give him credit for trying his hand at scoring his own film. Shakespeare’s story of the “merry war” between lovers is a joyful yarn with some darker themes but not enough to stop the play from ending in multiple marriages and a death count of zip. For the most part, Whedon’s musical accompaniment for this story is light, melodic, and often times very pretty, matching the tone adequately for much of the duration. “Main Title” is a nice, airy piece with some lush strings and an ascending, 6 note plucked string motif that returns quite a bit, as in “Arrival”. It even pops up in graver pieces too like “Beauty is a Witch” and helps propel pieces like the “The Only Love Gods”, but it seems more at home in the comedic pieces (“The Gulling” cues, for example), of which there are many. Some of Whedon’s darker material such as that for Borachio is subdued yet sinister, meandering in the strings' lower registers, but at other times this comes across as a bit heavy-handed. Such is the case with “Disloyal”, which I found to be just too much for the scene. In this way, Whedon plays the dark very dark and the comedic very comedic, making certain scenes feel like they’re trying too hard. Especially when adapted on such a small scale, Shakespeare doesn’t need as much help as Joss Whedon insists on giving him. As a result, some of the music cues feel overbearing, ill-placed, or just unnecessary in the context of the film.
What is well done albeit subdued is the love theme, appearing in “Is Not That Strange” and “A Giddy Thing”, as well as in a very pretty variation in “Love On” and a more upbeat one in “Will You Come”. It’s a simple piano theme but anything more would be overdoing it. Also interesting is the jazzy “If I Had My Mouth". A departure from the other material, this cue could have served as an interesting template for the rest of the score had Whedon gone the jazz route (which I might have preferred).
While most of the purely instrumental material is pretty though often aimless and unmemorable (maybe a necessity for Shakespeare on a small scale, but it doesn't bode well for standalone listening), the two vocal songs “Sigh No More (feat Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon)” and “Heavily (feat Muarissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon)” are clear highlights. Leagues different from Patrick Doyle’s rendition for the acclaimed 1993 Branagh adaptation , “Sigh No More" is an irresistible, soft-rock take on Shakespeare’s classic poem and will surely be the piece you’re curious about when the credits start to roll. It’s light and restrained, yet effortlessly charming. Furthermore, the song is perfect accompaniment to Much Ado’s carefree “love at first sight” mentality. The second song, “Heavily”, is this film’s “Pardon Goddess of the Night” though it is named for the last line of Claudio’s epitaph rather than the traditional first. Played during the procession to Leonato's family tomb, “Heavily” is haunting and mournful yet darkly seductive.
With over 30 tracks, the album release for Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing may seem like a robust collection, but in reality it represents a mere 41 minutes of music. Because of this, most of the cues only last between 30 seconds and a minute and a half, making for a frustratingly fragmented listening experience (enough so to drop it at least half a star rating). Most tracks end abruptly without resolution, never really going anywhere or building to anything substantial. As I said before, I have to hand it to Joss Whedon for attempting a film score but this score doesn't have enough meat on its bones to really pay off and the album arrangement certainly doesn’t help that. My suggestion? See the film because it’s an impressive feat of expedited filmmaking, download highlights “Sigh No More” and “Heavily”, as well as “Main Title”, “If I Had My Mouth”, “A Giddy Thing”, and “Wedding March” to sample the score, then watch Buffy's "Once More, with Feeling" for a more memorable Whedon effort. Pretty and gentle, pleasantly meandering (until it’s cut off), and ultimately forgettable, the rest of the score may be worth a listen if the novelty of it being composed by Joss Whedon is enough to sustain your interest but otherwise the handful of highlights should be plenty.
Label: Bellwether Records
Availability: 32 track mp3 edition