Review by: Geoff Arbuckle
Lloyd Kaufman is back in the saddle with another Shakespeare adaptation from Troma Entertainment. #shakespearesshitstorm is an adaptation of The Tempest, but this is not the first adaptation of this style. Nearly 25 years ago, Kaufman made Tromeo and Juliet that was an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Nah, I’m just messing with you. That was obviously a adaptation of Moulin Rouge.
Lloyd is a lovable guy. He is incredibly active for a man who is younger than both or Presidential candidates. He’s pretty whip-smart too. He’s a Yale graduate and somebody who is mostly unimpressed with your stature and public standing. He recently was on Joe Bob Briggs’ show talking about the two-faced nature of those he went to a prestigious school with and their loyalty to power and money. Generally speaking, he’s an incredibly fascinating guy. He’s a little wild, but very mindful. He’s careful, but loves to shotgun ideas not really caring what will stick and what won’t. You also get the impression that he’s measured – while running a thousand miles an hour at the same time.
I’m not entirely sure how to review a balls to the wall Troma movie. It’s running a mile a minute and it won’t stop just for you to catch up. The crux of #shakespearesshitstorm centers on Kaufman’s reverence for the irreverent. He’s directly poking fun at culture with this movie and the often contradictory standards people will have. While there are most definitely bad guys, there are also caricatures of those that take activism too far to the point of being ridiculous monsters. Kaufman doesn’t pull any punches on anyone. If you’re rich, white, and generally shitty – you’re getting caught up in the shitstorm. If you’re using victimhood as a crutch – you’re getting caught up in the shitstorm. If you’re taking stances that ultimately make you a racist – oh, you’re getting the shitstorm.
What’s kind great about this movie is that it isn’t just spectacularly Troma, but it also has a ton of character from other places too. It’s raunchy in ways that goes waaaay beyond boner comedies or gross out humor – but still funny. It’s so raunchy it borders on pornographic at times. It’s Troma at it’s Troma-iest. On the other end of that spectrum, though, is that this is 100% a true Shakespeare adaptation. As ridiculous as this movie is, it’s just taking the Shakespeare story of The Tempest and totally making it fit Kaufman’s sensibilities. It’s wonderful in that way.
There’s a part of this movie that also feels like a bunch like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There are a few scenes in which a song breaks out and it’s verbose and charming. It’s over the top and gaudy while being true to a particular style and concept. I also love how Troma movies are more than happy to self-promote. There are Troma movie posters all over the place. Toxie even makes a cameo. That’s the sort of warm blanket you get from Lloyd Kaufman or Roger Corman that makes their movies such fun to watch.
There are some great performances in this too. Kaufman himself plays two roles – Prospero, the man who sets the shitstorm into motion for revenge, and his sister, Antoinette, a woman who is treacherous and tries betraying everyone and everything. He’s fantastic in this. When he makes good on his revenge, he’s killing it with a great, scary, and extremely well-shot soliloquy. Even his role as Antoinette is well played in drag. I love every moment of Abraham Sparrow’s performance as Big Al, the primary target of Prospero’s wrath. He often shouts things like, “I need more hookers and drugs!” We also have the social media SJW characters of Trini and Steph played by Dylan Greenberg and Zoe Geltman. They are kind of a chorus together. They are fun in their ridiculousness and over-the-top caricature of the “woke”, socially-minded media influencers – who also happen to be working for a Big Pharma bullshit company.
However, I found Erin Miller’s Ferdinand and Kate McGarrigle’s Miranda goddamn sweet together in this movie. They are pretty much the true Shakespearean characters of the film. While they are still playing irreverent Troma characters, there is still an earnest nature to their scenes together, even going so far as directly quoting The Tempest in a slightly more plot-driven dramatic way. They even get to have a fun little dance scene during the credits. While you can hardly have a Troma feature without Lloyd, Miller and McGarrigle are the heart of the movie that really does elevate this movie when they are courting each other. Even McGarrigle’s topless musical number about finding love while furiously masturbating is almost cute rather than crude.
I really hate to reuse this word, but if I was asked for one word for how I felt about this movie, it’s truly “charming”. It’s sophomoric in Kaufman’s quite intelligent way, but there’s a heart to it that you can’t deny. It’s also making no bones about what it wants to be and what it wants to do. It may be dumping gallons of whale shit onto its cast (seriously, there’s a section of credits for “Shit Unit”), it’s still very Shakespearean at its core – with a whole bunch of hookers, blow, and tits. Every single person on screen knows exactly what they are doing and what it is Kaufman is going for. That’s a testament to a solid director and competent producer. All this, and more, should be what you should expect from Troma.