MONKEY REVIEW: Hamlet 2

December 26, 2008

hamlet2“Yes, it was stupid, but it was also theater.”

Flawed, but still frequently hilarious movie about a failed actor turned Tucson high school drama teacher named Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) who, in a desperate attempt to save the drama program from budget cuts, decides to put on a long time dream project of his: An elaborate musical drama called Hamlet 2, a sequel that allows the doomed Danish prince to travel back in time and, aided by “a sexy Jesus,” to right all the wrongs perpetrated in the first play. Director and co-writer Andrew Fleming picks some obvious satirical targets, chief among them Coogan’s character, who is pretentious and painfully inept, but also genuinely eager to inspire his mostly reluctant students a la Dead Poet’s Society and Mr. Holland’s Opus. Coogan really is the whole show here, despite being aided by a mostly outstanding supporting cast, and your tolerance for his character in the opening first couple of “acts” will be a litmus test as to whether you’ll stick the movie out. Marschz is similar to Corky St. Clair of Waiting For Guffman, if St. Clair were painfully and acutely aware of his own flaws and failures. Coogan gives Marschz enough depth that he becomes sympathetic, even in the grip of his most idiotic and clueless schemes. Frustratingly, Hamlet 2 never quite turns into a truly great comedy, but it is filled with great moments, and the climactic staging of Marschz’s play is hilarious and even, unexpectedly, a bit moving. Despite its own flaws and failure, Hamlet 2 ends up having something to say about how art, even bad art, can have a profoundly positive effect on the people who participate in it, and the people who receive it.

MONKEY RATING: TWO MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

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