Shakespeare wrote plenty of comedies, so why try to mine one of his tragedies for laughs? Only the best moments of Scotland, PA. answer that question, and those are spaced so generously that they hardly amount to an answer at all. A version of Macbeth set in rural Pennsylvania during the 1970s reign of Foreigner and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Scotland, PA. makes a Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth out of James LeGros and Maura Tierney, a downwardly mobile couple unhappily entering their 30s still in the employ of a hamburger stand named Duncan's. From that setup, the film goes where it must, deriving most of its gags from its methods of shoehorning incidents from the play into their less regal new home. It's fun at first, but the one-joke premise wears thin in a hurry. Justifying homicide to her husband, Tierney describes it as the act of "underachievers who have to make up for lost time," which nicely swathes the moral bankruptcy of her Shakespearean predecessor in Me Decade sentiment. But such inspired moments get overwhelmed by an abundance of questionable choices and misfired gags: The "why not?" casting of Andy Dick, Timothy "Speed" Levitch, and Amy Smart as LeGros' supernatural counselors (not witches, but potheads with a magic eight-ball) exemplifies the former, while writer-director Billy Morrissette's tendency to pile on the laugh-at-the-hicks humor when short of other ideas typifies the latter. As the vegetarian Lieut. Ernie McDuff, Christopher Walken provides some good moments, but his character seems more like an update of Dostoyevsky's Inspector Porfiry than one tailored to Morrissette's That '70s Shakespeare. Perhaps the film wants to do for the Bard and Pennsylvania what the Coens' O Brother, Where Art Thou? did for Homer and the Deep South, but it fails to shed light on its source or its setting. Scotland, PA. is closer to Drop Dead Gorgeous than Throne Of Blood; Shakespeare hasn't had it this rough since Lemmy from Motörhead performed the opening soliloquy in Tromeo And Juliet.
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