Hamlet 2
dir Andrew Fleming
scr Pam Brady, Andrew Fleming
prd Eric Eisner, Leonid Rozhetskin, Aaron Ryder
with Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, Amy Poehler, Elisabeth Shue, David Arquette, Joseph Julian Soria, Skylar Astin, Phoebe Strole, Melonie Diaz, Arnie Pantoja, Michael Esparza, Natalie Amenula
release US 22.Aug.08,
UK 7.Sep.09 dvd
08/US Focus 1h32
Hamlet 2
ROCK ME, SEXY JESUS: Coogan and friends

keener poehler shue
london film fest
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Hamlet 2 The cast and crew kind of throw everything they can think of at the screen in this satirical teen comedy with slightly more serious overtones. Some of it doesn't work at all, but much of it is both sharply astute and hysterically funny.

Dana Marschz (Coogan) is a vain, failed actor teaching high school drama in Tucson, Arizona. His specialty is adapting movies to the stage, but his recent student production of Erin Brockovich was torn to shreds by the student newspaper. Meanwhile, he and his sarcastic wife (Keener) are reduced to money-saving schemes including taking in a creepy lodger (Arquette) and roller-blading to work. Then when the school bans Dana's next production--a sequel to Hamlet with a time-travel twist that allows a happy ending--he turns it into a national debate over free speech.

The film is absolutely packed with absurd silliness, from over-the-top slapstick to sassy political humour. And Coogan goes for broke, often drifting far over-the-top as the increasingly overdramatic, diva-like Dana. The problem is that this often leaves the centre of the film feeling both unfunny and annoying, especially when his subplots spiral out to include infertility and infidelity.

But some of his dialog is brilliant ("My life is a parody of a tragedy") and everything around Dana is pretty entertaining. As a whole the film is like a refreshingly R-rated version of High School Musical, especially during the last 20 minutes when we get to see much of Hamlet 2 itself, including the centrepiece showstopper Rock Me, Sexy Jesus (watch him moonwalk on water!).

The teen actors are very good, playing cleverly with stereotypes, and the adult cast is terrific, most notably the riotous Poehler as a civil rights lawyer who arrives to save the day. And Keener amusingly steals all of her scenes with a rudely acerbic performance. But Shue's appearance doesn't really work; she plays herself as an ex-actress who now works as a nurse. So it's a good thing that the cast and crew save the best for last, because the play within the film is a work of mad genius.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 26.Oct.08 lff

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall