Film: Hamlet 2
Director: Andrew Flemming
Producers: Eric Eisner, Leonid Rozhetskin, Aaron Ryder
Writers: Pam Brady, Andrew Flemming
Starring: Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener
Runtime: 92 minutes
4 out of 5 Stars
As ridiculous as a sequel to “Hamlet” sounds, in today’s age of never ending remakes and sequels, it’s a concept that may be taken seriously. Until then, we’ve been given a film that’s as close as we’re going to get, and quite funny at that.
In “Hamlet 2,” high school theater teacher Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) struggles to keep the drama department alive. His last effort, bringing “Erin Brockovich” to the stage, was a flop. When budget cutbacks threaten to close the department forever, he realizes the only way to keep theatre alive is to produce the greatest play he’s ever written. What he comes up with is a sequel to “Hamlet.” But since everyone died at the end of “Hamlet,” he decides to introduce a time machine into the story, allowing deceased characters to play in his sequel. When faculty members hear of the controversial nature of his play, they shut it down, forcing Marschz to find another venue. ACLU Lawyer Cricket Feldstein (Amy Poehler) soon appears to ensure there’s not a violation of free speech.
The acting is strong by most of the performers. Coogan exhibits great energy as determined, yet clueless Marschz. Helping him along the way is his wife, Brie Marschz (Catherine Keener) who is woefully underused. Showing a great sense of self-deprecating humor is Elisabeth Shue playing herself. Shue has given up her days of acting and is now working as a nurse in a sperm bank. Poehler does a fine job, but I feel she was not given enough screen time to really let her comedic talents shine. Most of the performances in this film are worthy of a certain amount of praise, with the exception of Gary (David Arquette), who truly adds nothing.
The musical numbers in the film are few, but they are a highpoint. The real fun starts when Marschz and his students perform the highlight musical number of the play, “Rock Me Sexy Jesus.” This musical number is bound to offend those who are sensitive to religious satire. Marschz also decides it would be beneficial to include a song entitled “Raped in the Face,” which is a reference to how Marschz feels when he finds out the drama department is closing. The mere fact that Marschz thinks he can get away with subject matter of this nature in a high school proves his incompetence.
While “Hamlet 2” is indeed satirical, it is not scathingly so. Marschz seems to embody the lack of originality that is found in Hollywood today. Instead of creating something original, he feels that simply recreating something is the path to success. Marschz would undoubtedly call “Hamlet 2” his masterpiece, yet he doesn’t seem to realize that it’s a travesty of the source material. Inspirational teacher films such as “Dangerous Minds,” which Marschz thinks of as great, are also lampooned. This doesn’t work as well as the Hollywood angle since it seems to become what it’s making fun of in the first place.
Beneath the film’s silly surface is a tale with heart. Marschz is so desperate to create something that’s good — he’s just blind as to how talentless he is. The level of desperation that Coogan’s character exhibits is in the same ballpark as Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Ed Wood, though Coogan is much more ridiculous.
“Hamlet 2” is not perfect though. As humorous as it is there are more than a few scenes where the jokes fall flat. This usually involves taking the easy way out and making a sexual reference, which isn’t entirely bad, just not always necessary. Ultimately this film is about not giving up on yourself and having the strength to continue with your dreams, even when no one else thinks you can do it. The themes are trite, sure, but they are ones everyone can relate to.