August 31, 2020 #ShakespearesShitstorm (Movie Review)
Sometimes, all it takes for a medium or writer’s reputation to grow is age. For example, Shakespeare today is considered to be the greatest English playwright. Whereas in his lifetime and up to a century after his death, he was considered too common, bawdy, and crass, with other writers either altering his play’s endings or dressing them up. Other writers had Othello’s Desdemona wearing a ‘tiara’ festooned with ‘Asiatic flowers’. Billy Shakes had her in a ‘handkerchief speckled with strawberries’.
So, perhaps some people should chill out over ‘The Bard’. Otherwise they will have a heart attack when they learn Troma Pictures are going back to his oeuvre. 24 years after 1996’s Tromeo & Juliet comes #ShakespearesShitstorm. Director Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger 1984, Troma’s War 1998) adapts Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Troma-tising effect.
In it, the mad pharma-scientist Prospero (Kaufman) flees New York City to take refuge with his daughter Miranda (Kate McGarrigle: Queering series, A Ring for Christmas 2020) in Tromaville, NJ. He had once prospered at AvonBard Pharmaceuticals, but he was screwed over by its owner Big Al (Abraham Sparrow: My Super Ex-Girlfriend 2006, I Am Legend 2007) and his sister Antoinette (also Kaufman) and forced out of the company. When he hears they are on a luxury cruise off the coast of North Korea, he uses his science, some magic, and a lot of laxatives to conjure a massive shitstorm to wash them up in Tromaville. Then he could finally get revenge.
These factors in mind, #ShakespearesShitstorm made its debut at the Fantasia Film Festival on August 29, 2020, and promises to give audiences “all the sex, mutations, musical numbers, and violence that Shakespeare always wanted but never had!” So, how is it?
Well, it is a Troma film. It openly defines itself as a ‘shitstorm’ in the opening credits. It would be considered a disappointment if it did not have enough bad taste yuks and guks. Luckily, there is plenty to go around. Social Justice Warriors get taken down a peg, pharmaceutical executives are portrayed almost as one-dimensionally evil as their real-life counterparts, and Prospero’s aide Ariel (Amanda Flowers: ReAgitator: Revenge of the Parody 2017, The Bathtub 2020) is now a disabled crack whore who “puts the handi in handicapped.”
So, it does not waste time getting to the gags. Including ones that might make viewers literally gag. That shitstorm certainly looks gross enough, as do some of the other dodgy props like Prospero’s creations (‘Rack-It Raccoon’), and the effects of Prospero’s Tempest drug. Still, the film does better when it unashamedly embraces grossness and bluntness, revelling in sex, drugs, and fourth wall breaking. Almost like it is the studio’s MO.
They hit more often than the SJW stuff, which is occasionally funny (‘Safespacia’) with its arched remarks. But most of it plays out like grumpy venting that breaks up the pace of the masturbation and New Jersey jokes. Like Kaufman or the other writers got into a bad Twitter argument in the middle of working out the script. One can only say ‘OK Boomer’ so much between scenes. The film does get back on track by the finale, so that is a plus.
Still, everyone seems to be having fun on camera. Frazer Brown (Brass Eye series. The Toxic Avenger: The Musical 2018) gets some good remarks in as William Shakespeare, including a neat little scene against screenwriter Brandon Bassham (The Slashening 2015, Grindsploitation 2016) as Francis Bacon. Though it is hard for anyone to beat Sparrow and Kaufman in scenery chewing. Even in a film where everyone goes all-out in their bonkers roles, they go the farthest out.
Ultimately, #ShakespearesShitstorm does what it says on the tin; there are jokes about Shakespeare, and there is a shitstorm. The film offers all one would expect from a Troma film, and it does them well enough. Gross-out gags, props, and lines- both of dialogue and floury-looking cocaine- abound from beginning to end. If only the writers took a chill pill in development, then it could have been funnier. Troma fans will get all they want and need out of it. For anyone else, they will get a film that is funny about 2/3 of the time. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives #ShakespearesShitstorm 3 out of 5 stars.