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A modern, punk adaptation of Shakespeare's classic. Told irreverently, this film attempts to impact the viewer in the same way theatre-goers were effected in Shakespeare's time. Bawdy, Violent, Humorous, and Romantic. Written by
Lloyd Kaufman isn't exactly a household name. Known largely for his production company Troma Productions and his the cult favorite Toxic Avenger (1984), I doubt even movie historians and supposed bastions of good taste have ever heard of him. This is largely because his films don't cater to general audiences, nor does he cater to critics. Lloyd Kaufman and his set of dream makers make films for a small but steadily growing population of fans who have grown to admire his low-brow approach to entertainment. I am one of those fans.
I became a Kaufman acolyte after watching his 2006 Troma release Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. It was a movie with so many grotesque but highly entertaining set-pieces all done with reverence towards the Rob Bottin/Stan Winston School of special effects. After watching it I immediately became interested in his filmography and sat back to watch The Toxic Avenger which was a bit of a let down but nevertheless a strong feature. Recently I watched my third helping of Kaufman's madness while staying the night at a friend of a friend's house.
Tromeo and Juliet is a grungy, perverted and comic retelling of the classic Romeo and Juliet tale by William Shakespeare. Two young, star-crossed lovers from feuding families, the Montague and the Capulet, fall in love and get into a whole heap of trouble as they try to love one another in a world that forbids it. Oh and in the end they die. At least in the original they do. I tell you this because if you haven't read the play, seen the play or seen an adaptation in any medium then you deserve to have it spoiled. In the case of Tromeo and Juliet, the set up is about the same.
Juliet is a member of the Capulet clan while Romeo, or rather Tromeo (get it?), is part of the Que clan. This is when things get funky. The Capulets are no strangers to incestuous love as proved in the first scene when Sammy (Sean Gunn) tries to get in the pants of his sister Georgie (Tamara Marie Watson). Juliet (Jane Jensen) is no prude herself and rolls in the hay with her lesbian lover the nursemaid Ness (Debbie Rochon) on a regular basis. But she is only a distraction from the cruel family patriarch Cappy Capulet (William Beckwith) and homicidal butcher London (Steve Gibbons), both of which want to get with her. In comes Tromeo (Will Keenan), son of Monty Que (Earl McKoy) the man robbed from the profits of Capulet's porn distribution racket. He goes to a Capulet party with his floozy girlfriend and best friend Murray (Valentine Miele) but catches the eye of Juliet and thus their romance and a lot of gore and hilarity begins.
In many ways Tromeo and Juliet plays Shakespeare much like it was probably played in the 16th century. Back then the theater wasn't a refined spectacle where people were ushered to their seats, sat on their thumbs and politely applauded when the lights turn dim. No the Elizabethan theatre as it were, was noisy, grungy and even deadly. Playwrights would consider it a compliment if the audience managed to shut up for a scene or two. Otherwise the public would throw tomatoes, chant, yell and chastise any performances that didn't appeal. Thank of that next time you see a person's face dimly lit by the light of their iphone.
Tromeo and Juliet brings the story back where it belongs; to the masses and for that reason is probably the best film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet I have seen. That's right; it's all leading up to that statement right there. For the cheap seats; I think this is the best film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet I have seen! It doesn't help that I'm not a big fan of the story to begin with but what's not to love about an adaptation that has someone break their head open on a fire hygrine? There's blood, mayhem, humor and cheap, cheap sex in this salacious reimagining and there are just enough changes in the plot to both appeal to Shakespeare originalists and people who aren't fans of ionic pentameter.
Of course this movie is not for anyone. If you're squeamish when faced with an actual nipple being pierced in a close-up or offended by salty language don't watch anything Troma. Yet when I look back at my time in theater and the colorful, bawdy people I knew and called my friends, I can't think of one who wouldn't enjoy Tromeo and Juliet. In my opinion, Baz Luhrmann can eat his heart out.
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