Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Hamlet 2" - REVIEW

Just when you thought Hollywood couldn't sink any lower, they went and made a sequel to, of all things, Hamlet, often considered the greatest play in the English language. That's what most would think after hearing such a blunt title, but this is actually something wildly different (though yes, there is a Hamlet 2). When failed actor turned worse drama teacher Dana Marschz (British icon Steve Coogan, going full on American here) learns that his (pathetic) drama department at a Tucson, Arizona high school is being shut down, he thinks it's the last straw. His sarcastic wife (funny but underused Catherine Keener) has fallen off the wagon again, he's near broke, and his adaptations of Hollywood blockbusters/Oscar winners are continually panned by his school's theater critic (most recently: Erin Brokovich). Along with that, his new drama class for the trimester is filled with the types of ethnic minorities that one would normally expect to find in any inspirational teacher movies (though there are two ULTRA white theater dorks). In his last ditch attempt Dana does the unthinkable: he writes a sequel to Hamlet. From this point on, the movie (divided into 5 acts) chronicles the ups and downs of the seemingly doomed production of one of the most outrageous plays ever written (Satan French kissing the President, anyone?). Though it's a pretty hilarious idea in concept, the execution leaves a little to be desired. Coogan is hilarious as Dana, even when the script undermines his efforts with overdoses of the same gags (watching Dana travel via rollerskates gets old really quickly). However, the biggest problem that plagues Hamlet 2 is that, despite it's best intentions, a number of gags just seem to fall flat, even though as I sat in the theater I thought "wait...this should be funny...why isn't it???". At the end of the film in particular, the script's attempts to poke fun at religious fundamentalists, it feels uneven, and at times too obvious. Perhaps the script's biggest crime is that it wastes Amy Poehler as Dana's ACLU lawyer, along with most of the supporting cast. However, if there's one part of Hamlet 2 that doesn't underwhelm (aside from Coogan), it's the actual production of Hamlet 2, which occupies the last 20 minutes of the movie; it's outrageous, shocking (a song titled "Raped in the Face"), bizarre, and ultimately leaves you wishing that someone would actually stage this show in real life.

Grade: B-

Nominations: Coogan is the only one who comes close...other than that...: Best Original Song - Rock Me Sexy Jesus(#1 WINNER), Best Original Song - Raped in the Face(#4)

Number of 2008 films seen: 25

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