"Scotland, PA." is a Big Mac served with a side of Shakespearean noir...
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Scotland, PA." is a Big Mac served with a side of Shakespearean noir. The '70s McBeths plan the murder of their boss Norman Duncan to take over his burger restaurant. The parody of 1970's culture, especially fast food, works well from bellbottoms to drive-through windows.
The adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" is weak, however. As parody, it doesn't survive through the hippie witches opening. It's one thing to have Kenneth Branagh plan to adapt the play; it is quite another for almost anyone else to attempt even a serious version, much less this uneven Billie Morrissette comedy noir.
What does work, however, is Christopher Walken as Lt. Ernie McDuff, a Columbo-like investigator flashing the Walken menacing but naughty grin. He has the film's best line when he says of the McBeth improvements to the burger joint, "This place really looks great. Of course, the last time there was a dead body in the fryer." He, along with Maura Tierney as Pat McBeth, is worth seeing.
If you know the original, there are enough amusements; if you don't, then you are limited to a low to medium level of laughter on the chili pepper scale. Shakespeare cared little for plot; it was in the words he caught the minds of the audience. "Scotland, PA." has a little style and very little memorable language, except for the other great line when Pat McBeth says, "We're not bad people, Mac. We're just underachievers who have to make up for lost time."
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice-chairs The Film Council of Greater Columbus.