Shakespeare ... In and Out (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Shakespeare ... In and Out is an ultra low budget mockumentary. Given that it is produced by Troma Pictures and takes place in the adult film industry, you would expect it to have amateurish production values and to be gross and sophomoric, but probably also to be good for a few laughs. Your guesses would be mostly wrong. The production values are poor, but necessarily so. (It's part of the premise.) The film is actually ... well ... I hate to use the word when discussing a Troma film ... "sensitive." Oh, sure, not sensitive in the sense that Meryl Streep would consider a part in it, but sensitive in that it creates a genuine sympathy for and involvement with the lead character as if he were a real person. It is also tame, non-violent, and kinda sweet. Not one severed limb. Obviously, that is not what you would expect from a Troma project about the porno industry.

The set-up is as follows. Sixteen years ago, a filmmaker had a dream to film an ordinary person, chosen at random, at age six, then again sixteen years later. He managed to film the first half of the documentary, but died before he could complete the second half, so his son had to take up the mantle, and did so willingly, to honor his father. By the time the project was to be completed, the ordinary six year old had grown up to be an actor ... of sorts. Rich Longfellow caught the acting bug when he was a small child and dreamt of playing Shakespeare, but his pursuit of a classical stage career got him shunted off onto the sidetrack of the adult film business.

That premise allows the two filmmakers (the real filmmaker and the fictional one portrayed on film) the freedom to study the porno business and its impact on the lives of its participants. In that context, the film looks at "Rich" and examines his inner conflict between the obvious appeal of being a hot stud porn star with the attendant babes and bucks, and the fact that committing to the porno life means abandoning his dream to play Hamlet.

Considering the absence of production values (deliberately done to make the film-within-a-film seem authentic), this mockumentary succeeds in one very important way. It manages to suspend audience disbelief at times and create an engaging lead character. There were times when I forgot that the project was a joke and was wondering such things as, "what would happen to Rich Longfellow if he left porn?" Joint credit for achieving a surprisingly high level of involvement goes to Peter Shustari, who wrote and directed this project, and Roger Shank, who created Rich Longfellow by doing an impersonation of Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights, making his character an ingratiating, naive person who sometimes gets lost in life by taking regrettable detours, but cannot ever really hide the fact that he is always basically a nice kid inside. He's the contemporary equivalent of "the hooker with a heart of gold."

As a mockumentary, "Shakespeare ... In and Out" falls way short on the laughs. It just isn't very funny at all. On the other hand, as a simple story about a lost man trying to find himself, it has a poignancy that the auteur may not even have intended, and you may actually find yourself rooting for the poor schmuck to get his chance at Hamlet and, when he does get it, hoping he doesn't screw up completely.



  • No widescreen, and no features specifically related to this film.
  • The disc does also include another feature-length film called Romeo, Love Master of the Wild Women's Dorm



There is quite a bit of nudity in the mock porno scenes, but it is mostly far from the camera. The only real worthwhile exposure comes from Anita Francesco (full frontal) and Roger Shank (rear)

The Critics Vote ...

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The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even 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. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). 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. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C-. Amazingly enough, the story is involving. Unfortunately, it just isn't funny.

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