Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead

Dir: Jordan Galland
Star: Jake Hoffman, Devon Aoki, John Ventimiglia, Ralph Macchio

We basically watched this based entirely on the basis of the title alone. While mildly amusing, that's really the best thing about it. Julian (Hoffman) is an unemployed slacker, living in his doctor dad's office; he's forced by his father to apply for a job as an off-off-off Broadway theatre director and, to his surprise, gets the job directing a severely-mutated version of Hamlet for the very strange Theo Horace (Ventimiglia) and his crew. The reason for the strangeness is that Horace is a vampire, and gradually, the cast members Julian brings, including his best friend Vince, who's playing Hamlet, and girlfriend Anna (Aoki) as Ophelia, end up acquiring a certain pallor and aversion to garlic. The play reveals a history in which Horatio and Hamlet were both vampires, but the latter found the Holy Grail, which reversed the curse, and set off a series of battles between the pair, spawning not only Shakespeare's play, but the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern spinoffs by W.S. Gilbert and Tom Stoppard, as well as this, final, version, written by Horatio to lure Hamlet into a final battle. Fortunately, Julian is kept informed by the conspiratorial Charlotte, with a helpful DVD...

All of which would probably work better as a horror movie - something like the Underworld series - than a light comedy, apparently aimed at theatre geeks. I mean, I think you've got to be pretty hard-core to know half of Gilbert and Sullivan has written their play, and I speak as someone who has heard of the Stoppard one, which probably puts me ahead of 90% of the cinema-going audience. It is occasionally gently amusing - I like the title-cards describing the scenes, such as "Job Interview With The Vampire". Macchio, playing massively against type as a Jersey Shore-like crypto-mobster, is gloriously excessive in comparison, but none of the leads make much of an impression, and one senses this was made almost entirely to play on the festival circuit. It's rather too smug and self-serving for its own good, seeming more to pander to its intended audience rather than play to or challenge them. I can't question the originality of the concept, but if you've seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the Dracula musical there was a more subversive genre mash-up in three minutes, than this manages in 90.

[February 2012]

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