Hamlet 2 asks and sort of answers the burning question: Is a passionate
desire to be a star a worthy replacement for talent?
In a modern America where
people are getting their fifteen minutes for stupid things like reality
television, being related to someone with money, sex tapes and acting the
fool on YouTube, it's not that unreasonable a question. Hell, we are
even electing Presidents because we'd like to have a beer with them, not
because of their knowledge of the issues or their leadership skills.
So, maybe, in today's
world, the question is not all that far-fetched.
Not that this goofy and
delightfully anti-PC comedy probably is searching for such wide-ranging
sociological implications. It's trying to be funny, that's all.
The fact that it tips some sacred cows and throws a pie in the face of
intolerant morality is just a side bonus.
Steve Coogan plays (with a spot-on American accent) Dana Marschz - a name
which is unsurprisingly mispronounced by everyone. Dana is an actor in
his mid-to-late 30s who has had some very minor success (a herpes remedy
commercial is about the tops on his résumé), probably due to the fact that he
has no real particular talent at acting. However Dana is optimistic
(or is that delusional?) that stardom will come to him.
Dana is definitely a close
cousin to Christopher Guest's character of Corky St. Clair in the classic
comedy Waiting for Guffman.
Spring Awakening) - one is a closeted
(even to himself) gay and the other a closeted bigot. Dana has hit on
the idea of doing theatrical performances of popular films like Erin
Brockovich and is constantly getting roasted in the school paper by a
nine-year-old drama critic. In the meantime, Dana has
taken a job as a drama teacher in a high school in Tucson, Arizona. He
has a drama club with two members (Skylar Astin and Phoebe Strole - both
from the hit Broadway musical
His wife (Catherine Keener)
is miserable in Tucson and they have to take in a lug-headed boarder (David
Arquette) to pay the rent.
The school district
decides to close the drama department at the end of the school year, and at
the same time saddles him with the worst delinquents in the school - who are
given drama as a punishment. Dana is not really able to reach most of
his new students, but his unending enthusiasm and love for the arts
eventually rubs off on them. Dana decides that he must do something
dramatic to save his program.
The original idea is to
write his own play - a sequel to arguably the greatest tragedy in
literature. Dana had never been happy with the original finale, which
he considered a "downer." So, despite the fact that all of the
characters died at the end, Dana goes about putting together a new play
based on the play, but also his strained relationships with his own father.
The play turns into an odd mish-mash of Shakespearean characters, greasers,
musical numbers, a time machine, a gay men's chorus, cell phones and even a
cameo by Jesus Christ.
Of course, when word of his
play gets out, the morality police go out of their way to shut it down.
However, with the help of his students, a hard-nosed ACLU lawyer (a nice
cameo by SNL star Amy Poehler) and
former-film-star-turned-fertility-clinic-nurse Elisabeth Shue (doing a
good-natured parody of herself), Dana is able to achieve his dreams.
It is all done with such
silly good humor that Hamlet 2 should not offend anyone - which is
not to say that it won't. There are some people who are not happy
unless they are being self-righteously pious.
However, despite it's giddy
determination to mock everyone and everything - including the effeminate,
Jesus freaks, the handicapped, gang bangers, trailer trash, ACLU lawyers,
the shy, the mute, the bigoted, the stupid, the intellectuals, actors,
critics, parents, children, people with low sperm counts, Christians, Jews,
Buddhists, nurses, married people, school board members and particularly the
city of Tucson, Arizona (whose Chamber of Commerce will undoubtedly be
wanting an apology) - it is done with such obvious love and respect and a
complete lack of mean-spiritedness that it is hard to not give the makers a
pass. As with their main character, there is nothing cynical or jaded
about Hamlet 2. It is just in love with the idea of
entertaining - and will do anything it can in that pursuit.
Much like South Park
(a show which co-writer Pam Brady worked on for years), there is a
scattershot gonzo determination to take on everything. If you mock
all, how can one accuse you of singling their particular group out for
ridicule? It's rather brilliant when you think of it.
Besides, America today has
gotten way too thin-skinned. Everyone is whining that people are
picking on them. Moral indignation is boring.
Hamlet 2, on the
other hand, is never boring.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: August 22, 2008.