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Dust off the Cliffs Notes: Hollywood's most prolific screenwriter, William Shakespeare, is back with a new flick. This modernized Hamlet offers Ethan Hawke as a Gen X slacker who returns home from school after his father (the president of the Denmark Corp.) is killed and, well, you know the story.


Yeah. Right. Like I'm going to criticize Shakespeare. What I will say is that director Michael Almereyda's screenplay adaptation brings excitement to a film that could have been dusty and dry. This Hamlet presents a portrait of a disenfranchised 20-something who spends more time playing with his camcorder than taking care of business. This film takes a dead-on look at a bored generation, sedated by watching life go by on a television screen.


Hawke is well experienced at doing the classics. He scored in the underrated 1998 version of ''Great Expectations'' and takes to Hamlet like he's the first actor to deliver the lines. Hawke broods and wears funny knitted hats as he walks down the aisles at Blockbuster muttering, ''To be or not to be,'' bringing it all together convincingly. Captivating Julia Stiles finally finds herself in a film that doesn't completely bite as pouty Ophelia, but the real treat here is watching Bill Murray as the perfectly pompous Polonius.


Almereyda energizes this 400-year-old play, making it dynamic and exhilarating for modern audiences. Sure, the dialogue is straight out of English class, but the visuals do more than complement the bard's words -- they tell a story of their own. He gives us a Hamlet who lives in a loud, multimedia, saturated New York, populated with Polaroids, fax machines and computers. Almereyda's gutsy vision isn't scared to veer far from our expectations of the play.

Bottom Line

Fear not. This Bard is anything but boring!