As unfocused as this movie is at times, I cant help but love a film with a song like “Rock Me Sexy Jesus.”
Like its hero, Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), Hamlet 2 doesnt quite know what it is. At times it tries to be a critique of the kind of well-meaning, likeable, but flaky people who enter the acting profession without knowing anything about it. While at other times it attempts to be a parody of the clichÃ©d inspirational teacher movie like Dangerous Minds where the white teacher comes in and saves a group of intelligent, yet lost, group of minority students. Both are worthy comic fodder, and the movie does have some moments where it plays off them brilliantly, but overall it doesnt quite mesh together, and in the end gets lost completely in the whirlwind hilarity of Marschzs play.
Marschz is an out of work actor who teaches drama in a small Tucson, Arizona high school to make ends meet. At first he only has two students: Rand Posin and Epiphany Sellars, and their yearly productions are staged versions of popular movies, like Erin Brokovich. However, things change when his class grows in size because of a shortage of electives. To make matters worse Rand or Epiphany don’t approve of their new Hispanic classmates, whom they see them as little more than gangbangers and drug dealers.
And Marschz is just as racist as them, but in a slightly different way. Although he admonishes Rand that just because the new kids are Latino, he only sees them in terms of the movies where they are the disenfranchised youth hungry for guidance. Marschz envisions himself in the Robin Williams/Michelle Pfeiffer teacher who leads them to be something more than they knew they could be.
This situation would be stressful enough as is, but on top of that Marschz learns that budget cuts are forcing the school to drop the drama program. Thinking of the situation in terms of movies, Marschz decides he needs to put on one final play in an attempt to raise the six thousand dollars needed to save the program. He will stage a play of his own creation: a sequel to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
This movie has all the right ingredients to make a solid comedy, but it never quite comes together. Its almost like a stew where some of the ingredients are so flavorful that they cant help but stand out and overpower the rest, which makes it an inconsistent experience with moments of brilliance. In this case the movie switches focus too many times and often forgets its target. While Marschz stands as the focal point, there are times when I think the writers arent sure what they want to do with him. They play around with his father issues, his flaky nature and his unconscious racism but they switch from one to the other too quickly and many times lose some strong comedic moments.
And then there is his play. The idea of Jesus and Hamlet using a time machine to save everybody who died in the play “Hamlet” is wonderful, but the ludicrousness of the idea coupled with the nonsensical visuals (such as Marschz dressing like Einstein when he sings the song “Raped in the Face”) is so overwhelming that it eclipses the rest of the film.
The funny thing is that I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. I went in hoping to get a couple of good laughs, but I was surprised at how much I liked it overall. The moments with Elisabeth Shue, Catherine Keener and Amy Poehlers performances, and the sheer lunacy of Marschzs play were hilarious. My problem is that I couldnt help but see moments of wasted potential that could have very well made this into a classic. As it stands, Hamlet 2 was fun, but ultimately forgettable.
The movie is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 with the sound in Dolby Digital 5.1. There are two language tracks, English, which is the default, and French. There are also English, French, and Spanish subtitles. The transfer for both the video and audio was fine with no discernable problems.
Deleted Scene (3:00) – This scene foreshadows the relationship between Marschzs wife, Brie, and their tenant Gary. It was fairly funny, but went on just a little too long.
Making Number 2 (cumulative running time: 9:59) – This is broken down into two parts: Duty Calls, and Part Deux, but they can be played as a single feature. There were some funny interviews, but the highlight is Steve Coogan being interviewed as Einstein and Jesus.
Oscar Winner vs. High School Drama Class (1:09) – A cute little side-by-side comparison of the scene from Erin Brokovich that Rand and Epiphany perform.
Sing Along with Hamlet 2 – There are two songs featured here: “Raped in the Face” (2:05), and “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” (3:55). The lyrics are posted at the bottom of the screen with Steve Coogans face playing the part of the bouncing ball.
Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Andrew Fleming and Co-Writer Pam Brady – Pretty standard commentary fare, but they do get in some good jokes.
If you like South Park or Team America then give this a shot. Its not quite as laugh-out-loud hilarious as either, but it is a fun movie to watch. Plus, its got a song called “Rock Me Sexy Jesus”; how is that not worth the price of admission? Mildly recommended.
Focus Features presents Hamlet 2. Directed by Andrew Fleming. Starring Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, David Arquette, Amy Poehler, and Elizabeth Shue. Written by Andrew Fleming and Pam Brady. Running time: 92 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: December 21, 2008. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Amy Poehler, Catherine Keener, Steve Coogan