Thursday, March 11, 2010

Archive: 'Hamlet 2'

Movie Review
Hamlet 2 (2008)

In the small city of Tucson, Arizona, a high school drama teacher named Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) decides to put on a play that's a sequel to "Hamlet," even though, yes, everybody dies in the first. This is the premise of "Hamlet 2," a sloppy but funny comedy starring British comedian Steve Coogan in a role that, alongside his part in "Tropic Thunder," may earn him some popularity here in America. The movie is basically a showcase for his shockingly zany and bizarre antics as he plays a self-loathing recovering alcoholic who's also a terrible actor and essentially a walking failure. His theater adaptations of big films have all flopped and the principal is threatening to shutdown the drama department, so this rouses Dana to tackle Shakespeare's most famous of all works and write an original sequel to it.

The movie is highly energetic, rather haphazard, and while the script tends to slide around a bit, it's the performances and the bits of dead-on humor that hold it together. The plot puts a demented twist on the story of a teacher trying to teach and inspire inner-city students, and as the preparation for the play ramps up with furthering controversy, wackiness, and irreverence, the movie is at the same time surprisingly bleak and understated. Alongside the totally unhinged Coogan is a scalding and cynical Catherine Keener playing his wife, who complements Dana's misery perfectly. Amy Pohler also makes an appearance as a lawyer trying to prevent the play from being stopped, and she has us laughing at her first words. And there's a strange but humorous turn by Elisabeth Shue playing herself.

"Hamlet 2" packs in one heck of a finale with a play that brings back Hamlet, stops Gertrude and Ophelia from perishing, and includes a bi-curious Laertes, Satan, a wife-beater and jeans wearing Jesus, and even a time machine to bring them all together. It may not be as satirically intelligent as previous late summer comedies of recently, but with a musical interlude entitled, "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus," you really just can't go wrong.

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