Focus Features dropped 10 million dollars on the strength of getting another Happy, Texas-styled hit, but with broader appeal. Enter Steve Coogan. As the unpronounceably surnamed Dana Marschz’s, this unevenly inspired tale of an unaware and deluded high school drama teacher and his attempt to stage his greatest work-to-date, Hamlet 2.This sequel has enough comedy to even make Shakespeare bust a chuckle or two.
Before giving on the bright lights of Hollywood, Dana Marschz’s professional acting career was notably doing commercials for Jack La Lanne’s “Power Juicer” and for herpes medication. Now teaching drama at Tucson’s West Mesa High, his best (and only) students – the closeted gay Rand (Skylar Astin) and Epiphany (Phoebe Strole) are starring in Marschz’s stage version of Erin Brockovich.
Adding another blow to Marschz’s ego comes in the form of a scathing review from a 13-year-old critic (Shea Pepe) – who looks 13-year-old, but gives Marschz his grandest idea yet: try creating something original, rather than copying and pasting flicks for the stage. When budget cuts eliminate drama from the school’s curriculum and a new crop of “gangbanging” classmates join Marschz’s world, he brings the class together for his greatest work – Hamlet 2.
The Andrew Fleming (Arrested Development) directed/written flick works on the level of its absurdity. In one scene, Marschz’s is trying to convince bad boy, Haywood (as inJablowme), aka Octavio (Joseph Julian Soria) and his parents that he should play “Hamlet” in his sequel. But the getcha-gotcha is that he is totally oblivious to the fact that Octavio lives in a nice home and is obviously not from the hood. The dialouge between the characters is irreverent, yet riddled with pop culture references.
But this is no Napoleon Dynamite and even with its awkward humor and a cameo appearances from Elisabeth Shue (as Elisabeth Shue) and Amy Poehler, Hamlet 2suffers from being a little bit too left-of-center. Coogan, as Marschz, is given too much rope with the humor, while the supporting players could take up the slack, but aren’t given anything to do. Catherine Keener, who plays Mrs. Marschz, nails her mark as a fed up wife. Yet, similiar to the Hess Brother’s flick, Hamlet 2 wins on the strength of its final act – the performance.
“Hamlet” in the sequel is not wasting time on soliloquies, here he uses a time machine to reverse the deaths incurred in the depressing Shakespeare original. Featuring appearances by Hillary Clinton, Einstein, Satan and others – not to mention – Jesus Christ moonwalking on water in the production number “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus,” backed by a Tucson gay men’s chorus is riotous hilarity at best. Although nowhere near the standard of the 1999 Watergate spoof, Dick, Pam Brady and Andrew Fleming hit-and-miss with the gags, but the overall concept thou receivest no protest from audience or critic, alike.