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LeBrainHALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on Aug. 3 2010
I really really wanted to like Hamlet 2. Indeed, the very idea of a highschool music teacher writing a musical sequel to Hamlet involving time travel, a song called "Rock Me Sexy Jesus", and with Steve Coogan should have been a slam dunk.
Hamlet 2 never really gets going and relies too much on gags. The cast is really excellent with Amy Poehler being a standout in a supporting role yet again. The songs are pretty damn funny. Coogan plays his character, Dana Marschz, with just enough pathos and charisma to make it work. The film however never really kicks into gear until we get to the actual play, Hamlet 2, and by then you're most of the way to the end.
This is one DVD that I keep meaning to sell off, but something holds me back...maybe it's the thought that next time I see it, it'll click for me.
I'll keep trying. 2 stars.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Hilariously Loopy, Politically Incorrect Farce Boasts Enough Laughs to Overcome Its Uneven StructureSept. 8 2008
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I kept flashing back to Christopher Guest's hilarious 1997 mockumentary, Waiting for Guffman, as I was watching this raucous 2008 comedy, and in this case, that turns out to be high praise. Directed and co-written in ramshackle fashion by Andrew Fleming (whose most prominent credits include the 2003 remake of The In-Laws and an episode of Arrested Development), this wacky concoction mixes broad slapstick, harmless raunch, and politically incorrect humor with a heavy, tongue-in-cheek dose of Dangerous Minds (referred to in the film) and every other cliché-driven movie about a schoolteacher who serves to inspire his students. The result is something of a mess when it comes to telling a coherent story, but it's also an infectious movie that had me laughing heartily during most of its 92-minute running time. It comes as no surprise that Fleming's writing partner is Pam Brady, who is most famous for producing and writing several episodes of South Park, as well as the 1999 movie version, South Park - Bigger, Longer & Uncut. The similarities are quite apparent.
The plot is predictably absurd and rather inspired. Manitoba-born Dana Marschz is a failed TV commercial actor who has ended up teaching drama in a Tucson high school. He has just finished directing a stage production of Erin Brockovich starring the only two students enthusiastic about his over-the-top, highly derivative approach to theater. Marschz is trying to earn the respect of the pre-adolescent critic of the school newspaper but to little effect. His wife Brie hates him and yet wants to have a child. At the same time, they are forced to take in a tight-lipped boarder named Gary to make ends meet. Things change dramatically on the first day of the new semester when Marschz inherits a classroom full of Latino students who could care less about drama. Told by the principal that drama would no longer be part of the school curriculum, Marschz decides to go out fighting and stage a long-gestating work-in-progress, a musical sequel to the Bard's most famous work entitled, of course, "Hamlet 2". What happens after that point is a freewheeling comedy of errors that gives Marschz's demented optimism the perfect vehicle.
Looking like Eric Idle's younger brother, Steve Coogan gives an audaciously funny performance as Marschz, a pitiable character in the most obvious ways but undeniably likeable. He flails somewhat during the more vulnerable moments probably because his performance is so otherwise manic and vainglorious. By comparison, Christopher Guest's Corky St. Clair in "Guffman" has moments of weakness, but his character resonated more simply because the humor came from a more serious state of self-doubt. However, Coogan is a superb physical comedian, especially on his ever-present roller skates. Back in hippie-chick mode from The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Catherine Keener is hilariously toxic as Brie, while Amy Poehler gets the funniest lines in her smallish role as ACLU lawyer Cricket Feldstein, an overly enthusiastic activist with a bigoted streak a mile wide.
Elisabeth Shue gets to play a parody of herself as washed up in Hollywood and forced into what she says is a more fulfilling career as a fertility clinic nurse. While she is charming as usual, Shue is not given nearly enough to do here. There are bright turns by Skylar Astin as the closeted Rand and Phoebe Strole as the unctuous Epiphany, both alumni of Broadway's Spring Awakening, as well as from Joseph Julian Soria as the brooding actor-wannabe Octavia. The normally hyperactive David Arquette plays strictly against type as near-silent Gary. The much ballyhooed production that provides the film's climax is not quite as outrageous as "Springtime for Hitler" in the original 1968 version of The Producers. However, it is funny enough despite the fact that "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus" sounds like a familiar doo-wop song with wittier lyrics. I just wish Brady and Fleming spent a bit more time on consolidating the plot structure. Some of the story meanders without reason, and then it just stops without incident. Regardless, there is plenty of laugh-out-loud entertainment here for the undemanding viewer.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Hamlet IINov. 11 2008
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I am a professional actor (stage, TV and film) and a substitute high school teacher. I am also a script writer and "script doctor." Physical comedy is my mainstay in theater. Just off the top of my head: Steve Coogan is a superb physical actor (his drunk on roller skates is unbeatable) He is well within range of Buster Keaton's world. The writing is smart, well-paced, knowledgable about teen-agers, and surprisingly free of salacious humor that usually begs for the lowest common denominator these days. (If all this sounds like too much praise for a film comedy, then you haven't seen enough trash onscreen!) Loved it. D. Harscheid
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Coogan = FunnyJan. 26 2009
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Steve Coogan plays his character with such naivete and pure love for theatrical arts, you can't help but dig him. The entire cast is up to the challenge of playing into his character that the film becomes more about embracing one person's passion no matter how awful you think it might be because you are satisfying the end result - art for art's sake. And in the end, they pull it off.
The film may not succeed in every way (i.e. David Arquette has literally nothing to do and the arc with Catherine Keener is utterly predictable), but there are never long sections that feel like the film is dragging. The laughs keep coming even through the character's lowest moment and Amy Poehler breathes plenty of fresh air into it at the end.
Andrew and Pam Fleming co-wrote this bizarre, irreverent, hilarious, and completely original comedy . . . I must confess that I fear for their neighbors, because this pair views the world from a completely different point of view than the rest of us. While that's a boon to the movie-going public, I'm not sure I would want to borrow a cup of sugar from - Lord knows what they'd ask for in return.
If "Napoleon Dynamite" is a spoof of all teenager coming-of-age comedies, then "Hamlet 2" is a spoof of the "Let's put on a show" genre. Set in the completely mediocre town of Tuscon, the movie revolves around one Dana Marschz, a drama teacher who seemingly would have to aspire to great heights to achieve mediocre. Played by Steve Coogan with a zany pell-mell brio that brings to mind a young Eric Idle, Mr. Marschz is a semi-successful actor who has fallen on hard times. Now he teaches drama to mainly disinterested high school students and puts on derivative plays based on successful Hollywood movies. His marriage to Brie (Catherine Keener) is falling apart before his ignorant eyes and he can only roller-blade to work. Where, I should add, he is being fired due to budget cuts.
His career trajectory, one might say, has flatlined.
But then he decides to stage his magnum opus, a sequel to Hamlet. How, you ask, if everyone dies in the first one? Simple - a time machine! Not content to insult the legacy of Shakespeare's most famous play, Dana manages to offend virtually every sensibility in town.
But from Dana's madness comes greatness. Perhaps only through his unwavering faith in Art and the fact that he lives in a parallel universe where Elizabeth Shue plays herself as a local nurse (Shue having grown tired of the phoniness of Hollywood), but Dana believes he has created an artistic masterpiece.
The cool thing is, he may be right. Or he may be spectacularly wrong.
If possible, try to avoid any spoilers - this completely original movie must be experienced without any warning as to what is to come. Several gut-busting comic gems await if you do.
A must see for anyone who has ever struggled with art, had frustrated dreams, or attended high school. (It helps if you're familiar with the films of Elizabeth Shue, too.)
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Play's the Funny ThingOct. 27 2008
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Hamlet 2 was either hailed as great comedy or despised by critics. The former group could probably see that this was satarizing a genre of film in the most unlikely way, while the former though it was becoming a genre film with a slightly offbeat sense of humor.
In the film, Steve Coogan plays a wannabe actor who's done infomercials, commercials, and appeared as an extra in Xena and found his way as a drama teacher who unsuccessfully adapts hollywood films into plays. He lives with his girlfriend played by Catherine Keener and a border played by David Arquette, who has a couple good bits, but really has little to do in this film.
When Coogan discovers he has a large class and that his class is set to close due to funding cuts, he decides to write the outrageous Hamlet 2. Here's where people get confused. On one hand, it appears that this film is taking the turn of every high school film where the teacher inspires his students to do great things through his relentless pursuit of a goal. But in reality, it's lampooning them but doing through chracterization, which is why the film's so much fun. But if you didn't get it, wait for the DVD and watch again.
And of course, while the film is funny, it's uneven until you get to the play itself. Yes there's funny bits with Elizabeth Shue and brief interplay with Keener, Arquette, and Coogan, but as the play takes shape, we know it will inevitably take center stage. For the finale alone, the film is worth a watch as it's some of the most hilarious things I've seen on film in years, even if is borderline offensive. That's the point, right? My only major gripe is why on earth did Coogan have to use an American accent. He's such a funny Brit.