The cast is assembled mostly from previous Whedon productions, and the film was shot quickly and inexpensively at the gorgeous, spacious Santa Monica house Whedon shares with its designer and decorator, his wife, Kai Cole. Unsurprisingly, there's a homey, do-it-yourself feel about the whole affair: Let's get a bunch of friends together and put on a show! (I don't know if shooting in black-and-white lowered the costs, but it is, unfortunately, the kind of B&W that looks cheap.) You COULD to this yourself, if your friends had this caliber of talent. (Which maybe they do! I don't mean to denigrate your friends' acting skills.)
Amy Acker plays the spitfire Beatrice, with Alexis Denisof as Benedick, her sparring partner and eventual true love. Her uncle, Leonato (Clark Gregg), is pleased to offer his daughter Hero's (Jillian Morgese) hand in marriage to Claudio (Fran Kranz), but the romance is sabotaged by the "plain-dealing villain" Don John (a finely conniving Sean Maher) and his cohort, Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark). Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk play the bumbling, malaprop-prone police officers who uncover the conspiracy, and their buffoonery is well-played.
Whedon retains Shakespeare's dialogue but has moved the play to an undefined modern setting in an undefined land, so that references to princes and lords -- not to mention the great emphasis placed on chastity before marriage -- feel quaintly out-of-time, almost dreamlike. There, too, maybe the black-and-white helps: what we're seeing isn't really happening, not in any literal way.
But most impressively, Whedon and his cast overcome the primary obstacle facing all Shakespearean productions, that of making the old-timey language accessible and understandable. Some performers demonstrate greater facility than others, but they all clearly know what they're saying, what it means, and why they're saying it. All in all, 'tis a jolly, high-spirited affair, suitable for merry-making.