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Awesome: 3.33%
Worth A Look66.67%
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4 reviews, 6 user ratings

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Hamlet 2
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by Mel Valentin

"Scattershot satire hits more than it misses."
4 stars

"Hamlet 2," a “let’s-put-on-a-show” satire with directed and co-written by Andrew Fleming ("Dick," "The Craft"), is, minus some minor missteps and one or two (or three) predictable payoffs, consistently funny (often hilariously so) from its first scene involving a failed-actor-turned-drama teacher’s latest effort, a theater version of "Erin Brockovich," to the last scene involving the ridiculously awful, willfully ignorant, if sincere, sequel to one of William Shakespeare’s best known (and well respected) plays, "Hamlet." Featuring an engaging, sympathetic turn by Steve Coogan (as the aforementioned failed-actor-turned-drama teacher) and a co-starring role by Elizabeth Shue (as a fictionalized version of herself), "Hamlet 2" strikes the right balance between humor, pathos, and everything in between.

Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), a failure by an definition as an actor (he has a few television commercials and stand-in gigs to his name), has followed the “those who can’t, teach…” maxim by taking a low-paying gig as a high school drama teacher in the drama capital of the United States, Tucson, Arizona. When he’s not putting on adaptations of well-known films and bombing with the high school’s pint-sized drama critic, he’s trying to make a go of his quickly faltering relationship with his wife, Brie (Catherine Keener). Short on money, they’ve taken in a boarder, Gary (David Arquette). With both Dana and Brie on the wrong side of forty, they’re running out of time to start a family. To that end, Dana and Brie have started going to a fertility clinic where Dana meets a nurse who looks remarkably like…Elizabeth Shue (played by Elizabeth Shue). Turns out the nurse who looks like Shue is the “real” Elizabeth Shue; this Elizabeth Shue has left Hollywood and acting behind to work as a nurse in Tucson.

At school, Dana has difficulty in getting through his new, mostly Latino drama students. They don’t want to be there, but Dana’s class is the last elective available. Wearing his biases and prejudices on his sleeves, Dana tries to get through his new students by quoting from Mr. Holland’s Opus, Dangerous Minds, and Dead Poets Society. Dana’s shocked when he doesn’t get through to them, but, with the advice of the pint-sized drama critic he simultaneously loathes and worships, Dana decides to give his professional life a boost by writing, directing, and producing a sci-fi/fantasy/musical romp, Hamlet 2, with Dana as the co-lead, “Sexy Jesus.” Once Dana’s plans for Hamlet 2 get out, he’s forced to work around a pissed off high school principal (Marshall Bell) and conservative religious groups unhappy with his irreverent depiction of Jesus as a time-traveling surfer dude with six-pack abs. Cricket Feldstein (Amy Poehler), an ACLU lawyer, shows up to make sure the show does indeed go on.

Andrew Fleming and Pam Brady’s screenplay (Hot Rod, South Park, Team America: World Police, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut) takes an often scattershot approach to satirizing subjects ranging from self-absorbed actors, self-important drama critics, humorless, evangelical Christian groups, racists, gays (in the form of an ambiguously gay drama student), to ethnic stereotypes. Sometimes, oftentimes, Fleming and Brady’s screenplay is dead on, mercilessly skewering Dana and his arty pretensions. Sometimes, it’s not, especially when the screenplay references ethnic stereotypes but does little to undermine them (with one or two exceptions). That’s not to say Hamlet 2 is short on laughs. It isn’t, only that Fleming and Brady too often go for the easiest of unsophisticated laughs when they could have gone for so much more.

Uneven satire aside, Hamlet 2 also suffers from one too many predictable character arcs and plot turns, especially for the lightly sketched high school students. We know exactly what will happen with the ambiguously gay drama student the moment he appears onscreen. Likewise with his evangelical partner, a white girl who lets her prejudices and biases determine her actions toward the Latino students in the drama class. The devolution of Dana and Brie’s marriage is also a foregone conclusion, as are Brie’s actions. Again, likewise with Dana and Elizabeth Shue’s underwritten relationship: we know where Dana and Elizabeth will end up the first time they meet. Alas, Fleming and Brady use Shue more as an excuse for a joke than an actual character (she’s woefully underutilized).

Still, Fleming and Brady’s scattershot approach does have its merits. "Hamlet 2" hits more than it misses. Fleming and Brady also have the benefit of an engaging, talented cast and a finely nuanced performance by British actor Steve Coogan. Coogan’s performance walks the high-wire line between character and caricature while never crossing over into the latter. His performance as Dana, by turns unlikable and likable, unsympathetic and unsympathetic, clueless and self aware, probably won’t get much attention ("Hamlet 2" is a comedy after all), but it’s well worth the price of admission, in or out of the “Sexy Jesus” outfit he appears in during the performance of "Hamlet 2." Now if only Coogan can find the right material to match his considerable talents, we (and he) might be getting somewhere (where, exactly, though, is hard to say).

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17015&reviewer=402
originally posted: 08/22/08 09:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/01/13 David Hollingsworth funny, but a little too offensive. 3 stars
4/01/09 Mack Finally, a feature length movie as funny as its trailer. 5 stars
1/11/09 Shaun Wallner Very Interesting 4 stars
1/09/09 james brianorndorf knows sweet fuck all about movies. ignore everything he says. 4 stars
8/26/08 Noexit Who wrote this critque? Seriously, proofreading isn't overly time comsuming. 3 stars
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  22-Aug-2008 (R)
  DVD: 23-Dec-2008


  DVD: 23-Dec-2008

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