Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hamlet 2

One reviewer call Hamlet 2 "This Year's Napoleon Dynamite."

It's not THAT bad!

It's not that great either. The comedic tale of a bad actor, terrible teacher, epically awful acting teacher, is fitfully amusing as it spoofs high school drama productions, ethnic stereotyping and the ACLU but often degenerates into a sort of Will Ferrell does Ferris Bueller zone. Steve Coogan has been called a "comic genius," but I generally relegate that term to the incisive wit of George Carlin or the slapstick antics of Lucille Ball. Mooning the audience or doing a flashing full-frontal is funny in a juvenile "I see London, I see France..." kinda way, but not the stuff "genius" is made of.

Although the humor is haphazard, the look of the film is consistently high quality thanks to the gorgeous cinematography by Alexander Gruszynski and Tony Fanning's production design. Co-written by Andrew Fleming (who also directed) and Pam Brady, the comedy also features performances by Catherine Keener as Marschz's long-suffering and insufferable wife, David Arquette as Gary the border, Amy Poehler as Cricket Feldstein, the ACLU lawyer and Elisabeth Shue as Elisabeth Shue. The film almost duplicated Sundance Film Festival record set by Little Miss Sunshine when the distribution rights were acquired for $10 million. It's doubtful that the film will duplicate any other of Little Miss Sunshine's successes in box office gross or award nominations.

There's little here in the way of the emotional depth and character development as was depicted in Little Miss Sunshine. Everything is played for laughs--and there are some laughs to be had as Coogan's desperate Dana Marschz struggles to create his own Mr. Holland's Opus in order to save the West Mesa High School drama program. The result is the" so bad it's brilliant" sequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet--in which Hamlet, with the help of Jesus Christ, time travels to save everyone from their ignominous fates at the end of the original play. "You're taking the tragedy out of a tragedy?" points out one of the parents. Well, all that dying WAS a downer according to Marschz whose musical reimagination of the "tragedy" is inspired by Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, Star Wars and those Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon Beach Blanket Bingo movies.

It's the inevitable staging of the musical--which has been banned by the school board and bolstered by the ACLU--that is the highlight of the film. At one point, an audience member exclaims, "I'm simultaneously horrified and fascinated..." and that pretty much sums up the spectacle that is the musical number titled "Rock Me Sexy Jesus." Too bad there's not more of Hamlet 2 in Hamlet 2. It would have made for a much funnier movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment