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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.94%
Worth A Look26.98%
Average: 15.87%
Pretty Bad: 25.4%
Total Crap: 23.81%

6 reviews, 27 user ratings

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Hamlet (2000)
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by Erik Childress

"Shedding Light On Why Kids Hate Shakespeare"
2 stars

It has never been easy to pinpoint why kids frown upon studying Shakespeare. Is it the way the language is used? Or perhaps the fact that it is required reading for high school? No one’s ever been able to successfully argue to me that it’s the stories themselves. Even if they seem long-winded with the poetry William used to define a single thought – every one of his more well-known tales dealt with such primary human urges as love, anger and revenge, that one should be hard-pressed not to find something to grasp onto. Baz Luhrmann’s attempt to turn Shakespeare into an MTV video in 1996’s Romeo and Juliet, was not only awful and insulting, but should have proven that Shakespeare’s dialogue doesn’t quite work coming out of the mouths of modern day gangbangers. It’s four years later and a new director is out to disprove that theory, but just adds weight to an old argument.

It’s the year 2000 and the King of the Denmark Corporation has been murdered. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark and it’s this movie. The gangbangers are gone, but Shakespeare’s dialogue isn’t. And no matter how silly it is for characters to be calling themselves Kings, Queens and Princes, they keep chugging away at it hoping the audience will get involved. Unfortunately, it never happens.

Ethan Hawke (the poster child for Gen-X angst) seems like the perfect choice to play a post-90s version of the tortured Prince, but there is nothing interesting or memorable about his performance. Hawke was also in Great Expectations, a Dickens modernization that fell apart the minute the characters turned into young adults, further proof that Hawke should stick to more interesting projects like Gattaca, a futuristic morality tale, and avoid present-day updates of stories set well in the past. Kyle MacLachlan, as “King of the Denmark Corporation” looks the part of a corporate raider but brings no menace or pity to his role as Hamlet’s chief nemesis. Diane Venora also seems cut down and shortchanged as her “husband’s brother’s wife”, the Queen. Bill Murray, who is quite good, has some fun playing Polonius and he’s fun to watch if for no other reason than it’s Bill Murray doing Shakespeare. Sam Shepard also does a nice job as Hamlet’s father, but that is where the compliments end. Julia Stiles looks uncomfortable throughout as Ophelia and has her best moments when she’s not speaking. Hamlet’s friends almost seem inconsequential and even the great Steve Zahn is totally wasted as one of the doomed, and here essentially forgotten – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

The most potentially interesting moment comes during the creation of Hamlet’s ploy to ensnare the King called The Mousetrap. We see him renting numerous titles from Blockbuster and delight that we’re about to see some psychotic Chuck Workman film compilation. Hamlet brings everyone to a little screening room, and shows the film, which turns out to be anti-climactic and as sleep-inducing as everything else in the film.

For those of you familiar with the original story or have seen either of the far superior 90s versions (Franco Zefferelli’s 1990 film with Mel Gibson or Kenneth Branagh’s four-hour 1996 treatment), I’m not giving away by mentioning that Hamlet dies by the poison tip of a sword during a duel. Hamlet 2000 does include the duel (a little silly in modern times), but after a couple hits, Laertes just pulls out a gun and shoots him. Now if this was a Shakespeare parody, that would be hilarious. I laughed anyway. But to make such a brooding, low-key presentation and then throw in a moment right out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, one can’t help think but the writer/director was severely misguided in his attempt.

Never have I seen a more lifeless presentation of a Shakespeare play, which feels more like a rehearsal than an actual production. If this new version of Hamlet is any indication of what students see or hear while reading Shakespeare, I can finally begin to understand why they hate it so much.

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originally posted: 05/11/00 12:55:32
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User Comments

2/11/10 Jeff Wilder Interesting approach that works somewhat but not totally. 4 stars
7/12/09 the dork knight A stylish art project, nothing more. And...Bill Murray, WTF? 3 stars
5/08/07 Beef Cake Fell asleep, except when I heard gunshots. 2 stars
10/10/06 eork AWFUL: Ethan Hawke made me sick, as did Stiles. The film completley slaughtered itself 1 stars
6/05/06 Annelanti if ya wanna do modern Shakespear use moddern language 1 stars
5/30/06 Taoufik Khotbi the 2000 version is a distruction of the script and a clear cut from shakespeare's main mes 2 stars
6/19/05 farnqwo Having just read the play it was a very entertaining show 5 stars
6/07/05 athena they have made Omlet out of Hamlet 1 stars
5/01/04 your daddy 1 stars
3/23/04 lyrad Gnahc Hillariaously Stupid 1 stars
10/01/02 thejames Intresting take on Hamlet. These reviewers are pretty tight assed. Enjoyable and good actin 4 stars
4/29/02 Parker I liked it. 5 stars
1/10/02 Prudence IT SUCKED!!! 1 stars
11/21/01 Symon Black Mercilessly cut, monochromatic and numb, this is the worst Shakespeare I have ever seen. 1 stars
8/07/01 Hoosiergal22 Should have had Liev in the title role; his Hamlet at the Public Theater was f**ing awesome 3 stars
7/03/01 The Stuff I might of been better with modern language and same story. I sense everyone was lost . 2 stars
4/25/01 Spetters The makers didn,t quite succeed, but a movie that hsa a good Hawke perf is alreadysomething 3 stars
2/15/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Better and less pleased-with-itself than the updated Romeo and Juliet. 4 stars
1/12/01 svetlana wow...i really enjoyed it and i guess i'm not pretentious enough to pick out its every flaw 5 stars
12/07/00 Christopher Myst Duncan Shepherd said it, the worst Hamlet rendition ever! Good bashing, Greg 1 stars
10/07/00 Jürgen Wimmer silly and boring 1 stars
7/08/00 skye chapman did not engage me. TITUS it ain't 2 stars
6/23/00 Ramsay Interesting adaptation, liked background video compilments, acting was too weak. 3 stars
6/12/00 FilmStar I loved this...Much better than R&J, a lot deeper...Murray and Stiles were great 5 stars
5/14/00 Lucas This movie was a nothing more than a brilliant display of a classic story in modern day. 5 stars
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  12-May-2000 (R)



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