A lot of people have tried different ways to modernize the works of William Shakespeare. I don’t know why we don’t see more outright parodies of the Bard (Kenneth Branagh doesn’t count, that’s self-parody). It’s too bad that actor turned writer/director Billy Morrissette didn’t have the nerve to carry this tone all the way through when he transplanted Macbeth into a 1970’s Pennsylvania fast-food empire.
We initially find donut magnate Norm Duncan (James Rebhorn) trying to reproduce his success with his first hamburger joint. It would happen a lot quicker if he would act upon the ideas of star employee Joe McBeth (James LeGros). When Duncan passes over Joe for the manager position in favor of his stoner son Malcolm (Tom Guiry), Joe’s wife Pat (Maura Tierney) has had enough. Together, Joe and Pat force their destiny along. Success comes quickly to them, but they find themselves haunted by their actions as well as Lt. Ernie McDuff (Christopher Walken), the detective looking into Duncan’s rather strange demise. Hilarity and tragedy ensue.
This should have been a black comic masterpiece. The cast is certainly up to the task, even in the small roles. Morrissette replaced the three witches with three hippy circus carnies played by Amy Smart, Andy Dick, and Timothy ‘Speed’ Levitch. Tierney particularly is on fire in the Lady MacBeth role redressed in what would appear to be clothes scavenged from “Boogie Nights.” Christopher Walken is, of course, Christopher Walken. As much as I love Le Gros, though, in the second half he plays the part too straight. In the hands of the Farrelly brothers and maybe Ben Stiller in the lead, this could have been a classic. Instead, it’s pretty hit-and-miss. The first half goes down well, but beyond that the tone is all over the place. Oh well. I still think their are some comic gems to be made out of Shakespeare’s tragedies given the right talent. Later in 2001 there’s supposed to be a “Rave Macbeth” coming out of Germany. We’ll see how that does. Until Jim Carrey does “Hamlet” through his a*s, I guess it will have to do.