Hamlet 2 is a mixed bad of an indie comedy with one giant flaw: its main character, a Tucson, Arizona high school drama teacher Dana Marschz. This guy is annoying. British comedian Steve Coogan gives it his all, but he’s playing a super-whiny talentless blob with a pathetic need for acceptance.
In some instances that’s funny, especially the movie’s best running gag: Marschz’s desperate need to prove himself to the school paper’s ninth grade critic (Shea Pepe), who seems to think he’s the next Frank Rich. But mostly, he’s just not that much fun to watch. Hamlet 2 introduces a lot of characters and then doesn’t give them much to do, so its decision to focus mainly on the least likable of those — the butt of almost every joke the movie throws at us — is unfortunate.
The movie’s also wildly uneven; I would complain about the flow, but there is no flow. Scenes don’t transition into each other; subplots aren’t followed through on; a lot of things don’t make sense. But despite all that, there are plenty of good laughs — not surprising, considering the movie is probably just a mishmash of ideas the writers thought were the funniest — and by the end there’s an anarchic spirit to the whole thing that’s somehow endearing.
Take Elisabeth Shue. Yeah, she was nominated for an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, but do that many teenagers — the film’s target audience — even know who she is? She appears here as herself, only as a nurse: apparently she got fed up with Hollywood and came to Tucson. What this idea is doing in a movie about a school play is beyond me, but it’s pretty funny, so we let it slide.
Oh yeah, that reminded me of the film’s supposed plot. Still stung from the bad review his last play got, a staged recreation of Erin Brockovich, Marschz tries to write a masterpiece and ends up with a sequel to Hamlet. “Doesn’t everybody die in the first Hamlet?” asks his wife (Catherine Keener in, like everyone else, a funny but under-developed role). Yes, but Marschz came up with a plot that involves a time machine used to save everybody’s lives. Jesus is also involved, somehow.
Luckily, Marschz writes Hamlet 2 at right around the time he gets an influx of drama students (something about the shop class being destroyed and them needing an elective credit, or something), so soon they’re all putting on the play, and of course going up against the school officials who want to shut down the drama department and stop the play. Seems to me like they could do that pretty easily by refusing to give the students credit for the class, but a little plot hole like that is not going
to stop Hamlet 2
I don’t know. It’s a tough call. I enjoyed the movie while I was watching it, but as I write this review, I realize how shabby it really is. The jokes are mostly random and don’t relate to the “plot.” The movie ends abruptly and we don’t even get to see that much of the play. I wish more of it had been devoted to the students; Melonie Diaz and Joseph Julian Soria in particular both seem like really enjoyable young actors to watch, but their roles mostly exist in the background.
But hey: the movie is funny. You’ll even leave the theater humming “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus.” Maybe it’ll get even funnier on DVD when you’ve memorized all the good bits. It’s just that the humor’s a little bit cheap.
Movie Grade: B-
High school drama teacher Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) looks to bring his Shakesperian sequel to the stage despite the obstacles in his path — namely, a classroom full of disinterested students, potential budget cuts, and his own lack of talent.