OUTFEST 2008 Film Review - Hamlet 2


Steve Coogan in "Hamlet 2"

Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) loves to act. He can’t imagine doing anything else with his life. In his heyday, he did bit parts on syndicated series like Xena Princess Warrior and later followed that success up with a few national commercials. But the road to success veered at some point, sending Dana to the only place he could get a non-paying teaching job, Tucson, Arizona.

With only two serious thespian students Rand (Skylar Astin) & Epiphany (Phoebe Strole), he directs stage production after stage production of popular feature film adaptations, hungry for just one good review from his harshest critic: the reviewer for the high school newspaper. Yet despite his best efforts, his works continue to be met with disdain, if they are noticed at all.The new school terms brings several changes that will put Dana on a collision course with his destiny. His theater class space has been demoted to the cafeteria. His class size has increase by fifteen students since theater is the only elective to survive the school’s latest budget cuts, and none of the newbies are interested in theater.

Steve Coogan & Catherine Keener in "Hamlet 2"

Dana is not a man to be thwarted. He re-watched Dangerous Minds starring Michelle Pfieffer to brush up on his communication skills for his new students and again tries to entice the class into a mutual love for acting. The result of his day’s efforts: Rand and  Epiphany clash culturally with his new Latino pupils, his wife Brie (Catherine Keener) threatens to leave him if he doesn’t get her pregnant soon and the principle informs Dana that Drama class has been added to the chopping block after the current school term.

Incensed, Dana confronts the reviewer for the school newspaper, wanting to know if he is happy now. To Dana’s surprise, the young man expresses regret that drama is going away. The reviewer is the person that gives Dana the idea: put on a production so good that it will make the theater department worth saving. What does he comes up with: Hamlet 2.

Where do I begin…?

The title alone should give you a clue that you are in for one of the most ridiculous movie rides that you will ever take. (Because in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, pretty much everyone dies, thus the improbability for a credible sequel.) But I digress. If you like South Park, you will love this movie. It includes an honorary Kenny-type character in the silent Yolanda (Natalie Amenula) who gets pummeled by trash cans and volleyballs, and yet we find her still stand in scenes that follow.

Move over Cartman, there's a new Hot sexy Jesus in town

If you are a creative person and need a good laugh at the slave you have become to the art that you love, (in other words, if you have ever bawled while writing at your computer) you need to see this movie. If you believe that all is fair in love and comedy, you will love this movie. The film leaves no “bias” unchallenged. And yet the word offensive would be wrong since the characters are so innocently ignorant of their own prejudices and shortcomings.

Steve Coogan & Elizabeth Shue in "Hamlet 2"

If this film needs redeeming qualities, they are thrown in there. The film does spend an entire minute promoting the importance of the first amendment as it protects the creation of art in all its forms. There is also a paper thin “I learned an important lesson” moment about how art is important to society and to our youth. The film also touches – very briefly – upon the cathartic, transformative power of art. But mostly the film is just plain naughty, rarely taking itself seriously.

Primarily, director Andrew Fleming bombards the audience into submission with double entendre, sight gags and gross political incorrectness, all done through earnest efforts of the film’s characters. I was laughing out loud when I wasn’t sitting in jaw-dropped shock at the antics that unfold in this film. Round up a group of friends, leave your brain at home and settle in for a great ride. Because that is all the film is supposed to be: pure, mischievous fun.

I guarantee you’ll find yourself humming 'Rock Me Sexy Jesus...' in the halls too.


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