by: Andrew Fleming
Starring: Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, David Arquette, Amy Poehler, Elisabeth Shue, Melonie Diaz, Joseph Julian Soria, Skylar Astin, Phoebe Strole
Released by: Focus Features
Short: Steve Coogan's inspired performance as a sad-sack drama teacher makes Hamlet 2 one of this summer's cleverest comedies.
Funny, Fractured Shakespeare
When Hamlet 2 begins to unspool, it is hard to know whether to laugh or to cry. Dana Marschz (played by the hilarious Steve Coogan) is such a loser that it's painful to watch. The failed actor is now living in Tucson with his mean wife (Catherine Keener, in yet another inspired performance) and their roommate, the monosyllabic Gary (David Arquette), while teaching high school drama to a small class of less-than-talented performers. His life is just the pits—and then, it gets worse.
The school first sends a bunch of out-of-control kids into his class, then tells him that the drama department is going to be disbanded at the end of the term. It's the final blow in this sad sack's coffin; that is, until he decides to truly follow his dream, rewriting Shakespeare's Hamlet into a modern-day musical with a happy ending for his class to mount as their grand finale.
That scandalous play turns out to galvanize both the kids and the teacher, as well as to cause a ruckus with the school administration and the city of Tucson (which takes it on the chin in this very funny flick). The result is an extremely amusing movie that builds to a hilarious climax as Dana and his ragtag band of actors grab their fifteen minutes of fame and run with it.
You'd never know that Steve Coogan is an Englishman from his inspired performance as the very American Dana, but what is obvious from Hamlet 2 is that he's one of Britain's funniest actors working today. Match that with the terrific script of director-writer Andrew Fleming (Dick, The In-Laws), and what you have is Hamlet 2, a clever comedy that will keep you chuckling long after the screen goes dark.
Reviewed by Jenny Peters