[box cover]

Scotland, PA

There is something irresistible, it seems, about monkeying around with Shakespeare. Sometimes it's breathtaking — like when Ian McKellan placed Richard III in an alternate, Fascist 1930s Britain, or when Kurosawa re-thought King Lear as Ran. But usually it ends up on the level of horrible community theater, Taming of the Shrew-set-in-the-Old-West-isn't-that-cute debacles. Thankfully, actor-turned-director Billy Morrissette's black comedy Scotland, PA (2001) doesn't fall into the latter category. Sure, it's a one-joke film — Macbeth set in a '70s burger joint — but it's a joke that works surprisingly well, and one so deftly scripted that you can't help but admire the dedication that went into the adaptation. Morrissette's wife, Maura Tierney ("NewsRadio," "ER"), plays Pat McBeth, a disgruntled waitress at "Duncan's," the aforementioned burger joint. Pat's a sexy harridan who rides roughshod over her feckless hubby, Mac (James LeGros), the restaurant's fry cook. When Mac's passed over for the manager's job, Pat prods him into deep-sixing Duncan in the deep fryer so they can buy the restaurant from Duncan's sons (Tom Guiry, Jeff Dunsworth) and install a drive-through ( "We're not bad people, Mac," she tells him. "We're just underachievers who have to make up for lost time.") "McBeth's" is a fast-food success, but if you know the story then you know what happens next — a lot of hand-washing and ass-covering, as guilt slowly drives the couple mad and Lt. Ernie McDuff starts asking a lot of questions. Christopher Walken is in top form here as McDuff, playing the detective as a geeky, slightly evil Columbo. Indie-film regular Kevin Corrigan, as Mac's doomed buddy Anthony 'Banco' Banconi, echoes Mac's slacker ethic, while Mac is haunted by a trio of prescient hippies (Andy Dick, Speed Levitch. Amy Smart) who keep trying to give the poor sap the 411. Funny, sharp and vicious, Scotland, PA works because Morrissette obviously loves and understands the original source material — the '70s and fast food are skewered, but the story is respected, and it's cannily adapted to the new setting. Period music by the likes of Janis Ian, Bad Company, and Three Dog Night help the mood considerably, Tierney and LeGros are outstanding, and the cinematography by Wally Pfister (Memento, Insomnia) is far better than that of most indie fare. The DVD from Sundance Channel Home Entertainment features a surprisingly unexceptional transfer in non-anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1). Some scenes are noticeably soft and others lack depth in darker moments, getting murky and occasionally downright fuzzy. The Dolby 2.0 Surround audio is equally unimpressive, varying in volume from scene to scene with the rock songs at times overpowering the dialogue. The disc itself is sort of bizarre — the menu starts with a lengthy teaser of scenes from the film, going on far longer than makes any sense. Also on board is a director's commentary track, which is insightful and sometimes quite funny; a five-minute Sundance-produced "Afterthought" interview with Morrissette (he says he got the idea for the film back in high school when he was working in fast food and wanted to kill his boss); a pointless little "Snapshots from the Sundance Film Festival" with short-short artsy montages by a couple of indie directors (Frank Whaley's contribution is cute), DVD credits, and DVD-ROM content. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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