Friday, August 22, 2008

Hamlet 2

“It was stupid, but it was also theater.”

Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) is a former actor turned high school drama teacher in Tuscon, Arizona (which the movie reminds repeatedly is the worst place on Earth).

Dana’s simple life is complicated when his class of two (Phoebe Strole, Skylar Astin) is increased by other art and computer classes being shutdown, followed by the news that the Drama department is the next to get the axe, leaving Dana unemployed.

Hoping to raise enough money to keep the program and inspire his new students Dana dumps his usual of adapting the latest film to stage (previous plays at the high school include Erin Brockovich) and begins work on a new play - Hamlet 2: The Musical.

The script by Andrew Fleming and Pam Brady goes for the outrageous and when it succeeds is very funny. When it misses you can hear a pin drop anywhere in the theater. Coogan carries the film through most of the rough patches, though it’s hard to believe it took the school district this long to fire this guy.

Catherine Keener and David Arquette also star in sub-plot about Dana’s homelife that works well in the beginning but begins to drag over the course of the film. The students all put in solid work and I was particularly impressed with Phoebe Strole who has a great screen presence and does a good job even with some of her character’s more cringe worthy moments (FX viewers might remember her from a small role from the first season of Rescue Me). The film also gives us a humorous new take on the theater critic (Shea Pepe). And I have to give huge props to Elisabeth Shue, who appears as herself in the film, for a fearless performance.

Although the cast is solid it’s the show itself which is the real star here. My major complaint is the script takes too long to get to Hamlet 2. The stage show outrages and intrigues the entire community with a plot which includes Satan french-kissing the President of the United States (sadly, off-camera), references to sexual acts (including rape), Hamlet and Jesus Christ traveling through time in a time machine, and catchy musical numbers such as “Rock Me Jesus.” No, it’s not exactly The Sound of Music, but it’s not without its own charm.

Those who liked Get Over It (read that review) should enjoy this similar, though more adult, comedy. You will see many better films than Hamlet 2 this year, but here’s one that will stay with you. Memorable, in both good ways and bad, the film slingshots back and forth between moments of genius and stretches which are better off forgotten. But I think it’s the good moments, the catchy tunes and numbers, some outrageoulsy inappropriate humor, and a lesson about enjoyment and passion being more important than talent, which will stay with you. It’s not for everybody, but for the right audience all I can say is Rock Me Sexy Jesus.

No comments: