How’s this for an idea: what if Romeo and Juliet actually faked their deaths and then conspired to get their still-feuding families to finally bury the proverbial hatchet? It would seem someone named N. Barry Carver thought this was a great idea for a film, which is something of a shame.
The end result of this odd notion is “Romeo and Juliet Revisited,” a mighty weird short film which plays like a good film trapped inside a bad idea. The bad idea is Carver’s concept and his attempt to parody the Shakespearean iambic pentameter into something hip and funny. It doesn’t work, partly because the cast plays the material too elbows-in-the-ribs to allow the faintest gag to work and partly because of a screenplay burdened with heavy anachronisms including a quickie reference to “Green Acres,” a stupid sight gag with an intrusive Macbeth lifting his kilt to take a piss, and referring to Friar Laurence as “Larry.” (And don’t ask why Romeo and his family are depicted as an African-American clan.)
The truly depressing notion surrounding “Romeo and Juliet Revisited” is that Carver could have actually made a genuine Shakespeare film. Using handsome costumes, an intelligent appropriation of churches and gardens to double for Renaissance Verona and uncommonly beautiful cinematography by Hiroki Miyano, “Romeo and Juliet Revisited” is truly lovely to behold. While Gilbert Glenn Brown and Stephanie Griffin seem too contemporary to play the star-crossed lovers here, both performers have genuine charm and screen presence and could probably handle the roles if the Shakespeare text was presented to them. Why Carver opted for the joke film instead of the real thing is a mystery.
Mercifully, Carver kept “Romeo and Juliet Revisited” at roughly 20 minutes running time. The film is a fascinating what-could-have-been and a forgettable what-is.