Movie review: “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead’

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Funny title, not so funny movie. That would be writer-director Jordan Galland’s “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead,” an ambitious satire of Shakespeare, vampires, small theater, Tom Stoppard, serial womanizing, cops and more that starts off feeling clever and original but turns silly and diffused as its convoluted story spins out.

Jake Hoffman (Dustin’s son) stars as Julian Marsh, a slacker living in the office of his doctor-father, who exits longtime unemployment to direct a quirky — to say the least — knockoff of “Hamlet,” written by the preternaturally pale Theo Horrace ( John Ventimiglia). Julian quasi-dooms his best friend Vince (a game Kris Lemche) and ex-girlfriend Anna ( Devon Aoki) by casting them in the off-Broadway play only to discover that he’s actually a pawn in a 2,000-year-old grudge match between Theo — a vampire — and the “real” Hamlet ( Joey Kern), who it turns out is also a vampire. Who knew?

Blood spills, a “Get Smart"-like secret society investigates (as does an obtuse detective played by Jeremy Sisto), the Holy Grail is chased and the show must go on. But the farcical elements simply pile up instead of congeal and it’s suddenly a very long 82 minutes.

On the upside, Ralph Macchio is a hoot as Anna’s Mafia-lite new boyfriend, and the film’s various segments are introduced by an inspired array of title cards. Sean Lennon notably provided the score.

“Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead.” MPAA Rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes. At Laemmle’s Sunset 5, West Hollywood.