"Hamlet 2" Movie Review

One would think that a musical based on a Shakespearian play in which most the characters die at the end would be, in a word, impossible. But that would just be plain pessimistic according to Dana Marschz a high school drama teacher in Tucson, AZ and the main character of “Hamlet 2” the movie and the play. Played by British funnyman Steve Coogan (also seen in this summer’s “Tropic Thunder”), Marschz is an enthusiastic thespian just trying to inspire his students and make ends meet at home (one effort for saving money – roller skating to work). Hamlet 2 offers a cast full of comedic actors as well as some funny and touching moments that aren’t quite up to the “Waiting for Guffman” level but bring a modern take on ye ol’ theater and inspirational movie.

- The cast – I love it when big name stars are ok with playing small rolls because making a movie good doesn’t always mean being the lead. For example, Catherine Keener as Mrs. Marschz puts on an understated portrayal of a fed up, slightly dramatic wife. Next is David Arquette in the quietest role of his career. I think he says maybe 3 lines, but that’s the genius in it. Our third star is the always hilarious Amy Poehler as a tiny, aggressive lady ready to fight for the first amendment and shows up when Hamlet 2 is threatened to be shut down due to offensive material. And last, my favorite, Elizabeth Shue who plays… Elizabeth Shue, jaded and happy to be out of the movie business.

- It’s a modern update done well – think cliché “teacher inspires the street kids” turned funny and slightly non-p.c.

- The play within the movie – Having a play within a movie just makes everything so much better. With the city of Tucson wanting to shut the play “Hamlet 2” down due to offensive material, as an audience member, you know it’s gotta be good. The play opens with a song about the most unsavory line in the movie and thus delivers the laughs you’ve been anticipating.

- The language – here is where Guffman and team step it up a notch, there’s no need for excessive f-bombs and such for laughs, but unfortunately, this is a vehicle used in Hamlet 2. And frankly, it’s a vehicle I’m a little tired of (not just in Hamlet 2).

- Some things just don’t make sense – like that the schoolboard is mad about the content of the play, but never mentions that students are taken out of class to go to Dave and Busters, or that a teacher is found half naked in a field coming off of acid. Riiight.

Unique Qualities:
The “inspiration” plays genuine – I am not one for seeing the same old tired movies, which is what I find occurs in most inspirational movies. However, Hamlet 2 is a nice modern update and the sincerity in the students as well as the teacher plays on the same level as the rest of the film. No one’s lives are drastically changed forever because of this one play, but they team together and get the job done motivating each other to the finish and learning a little something along the way.

In the end Hamlet 2 is a fun and light hearted comedy with a cast that really makes this ensemble film complete. It’s a unique twist on the inspirational teach flick and is definitely worth seeing (even if you wait for DVD).

What did you think of Hamlet 2? What the language a bit much? Does Coogan have a future here in America?

“Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.

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