Scotland, Pa  (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

What if I told you this is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, starring James LeGros and Andy Dick, produced by Sundance, what would you think?

I know, I know. Suckitude, right? Probably arty unwatchable suckitude as well. There would be good reasons for you to make that assumption.

  • Forget about Shakespeare and start with Legros. He is only 40 years old, and has been in eleven movies rated less than 5.0 at IMDb. Let me put that in perspective for you. Christopher Lee is 80 years old, has been in 250 films, and is probably in any bad movie you can think of, like Airport 77, Police Academy: Mission to Moscow, The Stupids, and To the Devil a Daughter. He is pretty much the living embodiment of the spirit of bad movies. Yet when you sort Lee's movies by ratings at IMDb, you find only fifteen films rated below 5.0.  Fifteen to LeGros's eleven. Unlike Mr. Lee, who has balanced his karma with appearances in Olivier's Hamlet and Lord of the Rings, James LeGros has never been in a film rated better than 7.5. Amazing career. There is really nothing wrong with the guy as far as talent goes, but maybe he could use some help in evaluating scripts. The studios should use his God-given instinct as a tool to help them evaluate scripts. LeGros likes it? Red light.
  • Then there is the matter of modern Shakespearian adaptations. Think Ethan Hawke in the Fargo hat, acting his heart out in the only version of Hamlet I've ever seen where the actors mispronounce words. The mind boggles.

So you are prepared for me to roast this movie, right?

No. Wrong. It is a pretty good comedy.

"Hold on", you're thinking, "This is Macbeth. Oh, I get it, it is so bad it's funny!"


The R-rating explains that the film includes "some nudity", but that is pretty much in the same sense that The Sound of Music contains "some nudity". In fact, at least  Sound of Music has some naked goats. This has an ever-so-brief look at a stripper in tassels and a thong.

Wrong again. It intends to be funny, and it often works. With a current IMDb score of 7.2, it may end up as the best film LeGros has even been in, dubious honor through that may be.

Duncan owns a fast food joint in Pennsylvania in the 1970s, and the "McBeths" are his employees. When they turn in the thieving manager for his dips into the till, McBeth expects to be promoted from assistant manager, but Duncan decides instead to give the business to his sons. Three pot-smoking hippies, who stand in for the witches, tell Mac that, like, he can't achieve his dreams without ambition, man. Mac's wife pushes him to action, until Duncan is finally face down in the French fry machine. I think you can figure out the rest.

It follows the general framework of the Macbeth story, but doesn't use many of Shakespeare's words or phrases. Most of the plot is just an excuse to make fun of the 1970s and the fast food industry, and to let Christopher Walken be himself as the investigating officer, Detective McDuff.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Director Interview and Commentary

  • Insider's Guide to Scotland, PA

  • Bonus Tracks with Snapshots from the Sundance Film Festival

  • Widescreen letterbox format

In the process of spoofing the 1970s, the film shows us excerpts from an episode of McCloud. There is a very nifty parallel between the old B&W show and the movie we are watching, and that parallel goes far beyond the fact that the protagonist's last name begins with Mc. The McCloud action was obviously considered dramatic when it first aired, yet the fashions and mannerisms and dramatic music now make us giggle. The point is, of course, that the distinction between comedy and tragedy sometimes hinges on tiny differences of perspective or nuance. Because of the ongoing process of cultural tuning, we already have our eyes focused to see that McCloud is funny. The authors of this film try to give us the necessary focus to see the black comedy in Macbeth.

They didn't do badly at all. One thing should make us all sad, however. So many Hollywood films waste a rich look and lavish production values on poor scripts. Scotland. Pa. had a pretty good script but the filmmakers couldn't afford to make it look like a real movie. It looks like it was shot by your dad in the newly-paneled basement during your family Christmas party, except that your dad's films are probably lit better.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4, 4/5, Film threat 3/5, 2.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: it never reached more than 25 screens, and grossed less than $400,000. It did have some cult success in the arthouse circuit, however, as reflected by the fact that it was in theaters for seventeen weeks.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, C. Not a comedy classic, with an exceedingly low-budget look, but a pleasant enough watch with some very clever elements.

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