Since 1899 with the creation of William K.L. Dickson’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s King John, countless filmmakers have tried their luck at adapting Bill’s plays to the screen, making Willie the most filmed writer in history(big surprise reactions allowed). Thus far we’ve had Joseph Gordon Levitt get in good with a grown up Alex Mack in a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, Amanda Bynes parading as a man in for a tween’s Twelfth Night, and Kurosawa’s Ran is simply known today as the greatest adaptation of King Lear we will ever see. We’ve even seen the Walt Disney Company, with a little help from the thievery of a classic Japanese anime, craft the story of a true Lion King, Jim Carrey haunted by a doomed existence as a candid reality TV subject and an Asgardian demigod ready to reclaim his authority to put elves to the slaughter in adaptations of Hamlet(or as the director of this review’s subject calls it, “101 money making screenplay ideas”).
Well, after all this time analyzing his plays, tropes and translations, it was only a matter of time before someone finally got it right. In the Winter of 1997, Lloyd Kaufman, aided by the debut writing of future fellow director James Gunn, created what could simply be the most unarguably effervescent rendition of not only Romeo and Juliet, but any Shakespeare drama ever conceived. In this punk rock retelling of tragedy, the Ques and Capulets are the naturally expected waring families of Varon… I mean, Tromaville, constantly out to one up each other while the lovestruck Juliet(Portrayed by future rockstar Jane Jensen)and aptly named Tromeo(Will Keenan) keep their feelings incognito for as long as the script permits them to. Speaking of script, this one actually touches on a few events that Shakespeare mistakingly cut from his final draft. These events include the time that Juliet gave birth to 3 fully grown rats and a kettle full of popcorn, or the heads of the two waring family’s dispute stemming from a conflict of ownership over their underground cinema empire(I’m sure they had those back then, they were just unpopular)and of course when Juliet had to turn into a human-cow hybrid in order to drive her slaughterhouse employee of a fiance out of the 3rd story window of Casa de Capulet. Amateur for William to leave such legendary plot beats out of the official version, but we forgive the guy.
Any literature nerd has the capacity to enjoy the hell out of this movie, for although much has been added for the sake of Troma’s eccentric flair, Shakespeare fans will be surprised at just how accurate the interpretation is in regards to the general chain of events and pacing of the 5 acts to the point of being pleasantly disturbed(well, the final act is a bit experimental I must admit). Of course, the film has much more to offer other than its plethora of evil mutated penis monsters and family sedans going up in flames, it’s also an easy and up to date way for anyone to learn to appreciate what many people call the greatest love story ever written. Plus, any love story with narration provided by Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead easily adds an extra stamp of approval to it’s already high regards. Check out this gem next time you’re at your favorite pop culture convention by visiting the Troma booth, who will be carrying the very awesome 2 disc 10th anniversary edition. Or, you can enjoy it right here, right now thanks to Troma Entertainment themselves for gallantly offering up 90% of their catalogue for us to enjoy for free via their Youtube channel. After you watch it, keep in mind that James Gunn went on to write the Scooby Doo films, the video game Lollypop Chainsaw(naming the lead character Juliet in tribute)and will be directing Marvel’s 2014 feature film, Guardians of the Galaxy. So feel free to be inspired by the ultimate example of humble beginnings.
“Parting is such sweet sorrow” said Juliet,
“It totally sucks” replied Tromeo.
– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno