Hamlet

on December 10, 2000 by Jordan Reed
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Many an actor has tried his hand at putting onto celluloid one of Shakespeare's greatest stage protagonists, Hamlet--from the classically trained Sir Laurence Olivier in 1948 to the tragically hip Ethan Hawke last year. In this latest version, actor and sometime writer/director Campbell Scott adapts the Dane for the screen--both big and small, as this appeared on TV originally--and plays him rather well. He does a good job bringing out the conflicted character's sarcastic, humorous side that pointedly suggests his emotional and psychological unraveling after the ghost of his dead father (Byron Jennings) shows up to inform his son of his murder at the hands of his brother Claudius (Jamey Sheridan), now married to Hamlet's mother Gertrude (Blair Brown).

   Though Scott acquits himself adequately, as do most of the players, there's a bit lacking in the overall telling. Not that Shakespeare's lines should be excised for the sake of brevity, but at three hours the movie should have a bit more oomph. Or maybe it's just that "Hamlet" has been adapted one too many times (at least 20 since 1907). Most will be overly familiar with the story (although that doesn't stop them from gawking at plenty of Hollywood's blatant retreads), and seeing as Shakespeare's got so many great plays, it'd be nice to find one of the others at the multiplex. Someone should capitalize off of the popularity of last summer's "Gladiator" and take a stab at the Bard's "Julius Caesar" (last tackled in 1970), for instance, or perhaps do a darker version of "The Merchant of Venice," taking a closer look at the anti-Semitic bent of that work. Or, if they have to stick with Hamlet, follow the lead of Tom Stoppard ("Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead") and adapt writer John Updike's novel "Gertrude and Claudius," which gives a fictionalized account of the love triangle between Gertrude, Hamlet's father and Claudius before the murder.

   But "Hamlet" will probably continue to be tried, in large part because it's got some of Shakespeare's best monologues, and egotistical actors love the fact that the title character is in almost every scene. For whatever reason, Scott decided to give it a shot, he almost pulls it off. And while no sane person would want this timeless standard to die, maybe it should sleep for awhile, perchance to be that much more refreshed--and refreshing--when it awakes. Starring Campbell Scott, Jamey Sheridan and Blair Brown. Directed and written by Campbell Scott and Eric Simonson. Produced by Mary Francis Budig, Jonathan Filley and Campbell Scott. A Cowboy release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 179 min.

Tags: Campbell Scott, Jamey Sheridan, Blair Brown, Eric Simonson, Mary Francis Budig, Jonathan Filley, A Cowboy release, Drama, love triangle, murder, tragic, sarcastic, humorous, emotional, psychological
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