(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Awkwardly written and borrowing heavily from other comedic films, this film is about an actor/playwright/teacher who is not particularly good at anything he does. Then he puts together a play involving Hamlet and Jesus in a time machine and discovers he is good at causing an uproar. There is a germ of a good idea here, but only a germ. The film is trying to go in too many different directions at once. It is just a thin storyline on which the writer has hung too many unfunny jokes. Andrew Fleming directs and co-writes. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10

Humor is very subjective and some other viewers might find the film much more funny. HAMLET 2 is a tribute to some of the funniest moments in cinema. One can see in it bits from TOOTSIE, Woody Allen's early comedies, THE PRODUCERS, and Inspector Clouseau. However, rarely have all these bits been borrowed to less effect. Perhaps because the bits are all so familiar, they needed an extra twist for them to have some punch. Instead they are poorly delivered with little comic timing. The central plot could have been developed, but was instead just an outline and gags were glommed onto it wherever the writers could think of them. A Peter Sellers has the right timing and the right false-dignity so that when he catches his hand in a door it is funny (at least sometimes). But when Steve Coogan tries to imitate the same stunt his timing and his attitude is wrong and the joke comes off tired. Thrown gratuitously into a scene it does not have the same snap. On the other hand a teen audience might find some of the humor a little less stale. Most of the wit of a comedy should arise from character. Here more comes from the circumstance, with characters left undeveloped.

Steve Coogan plays Dana Marschz, a failed actor, a failing drama teacher, and a miserable playwright. He in not sure how to teach acting and inspire his disinterested class, how to convince the school board to not cut the drama program, or how to write an original play. He is even not sure how to pronounce his own last name. Marschz seems to have little to offer his classes beside platitudes that for him are deeply felt, but seem really irrelevant to his students. In this Arizona school there has been a big influx of uninterested Latino students. One of them pointedly is not portrayed as a typical Latino tough guy, but the script treats most of the rest of the class very superficially and stereotypically. In most teaching movies the students are well characterized. They are, after all, the most important part of the classroom. Here most of the students are merely props. They are not developed at all.

Marschz's drama classes do an annual play, till now always a near-transcription of a blockbuster movie. The teaching of drama is being dropped from the school curriculum. Dana's last play is an original story, "Hamlet 2" in which the Prince of Denmark escapes death and together with Jesus takes a time machine back in time to save all the characters whom William Shakespeare had die in his play. The vulgar language of the play and the use of Jesus has polarized the Tucson, Arizona, community between people who object to his treatment of Jesus and those who defend artistic freedom. Meanwhile Marschz is having personal problems. He is having a less personal relationship with his wife (Catherine Keener) and a more personal relationship with alcohol. Which all goes to make the story seem deeper than it really is. The plot has several lapses in logic. Somehow his class manages to put on a play with Broadway style production values, though the effort to get it so is never really shown. Bits of the musical play within the story are good. Sadly we see even less of the play "Hamlet 2" than Mel Brooks shows us of his "Springtime for Hitler".

Steve Coogan has a long history of British comedy particularly for playing his alter-ego, the smug, venal, and superficial radio and TV personality Alan Partridge. In American comedy he does not have the same resonance. I rate it a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10. There are several pieces of vulgar language in the film that some viewers might find objectionable. I found them neither objectionable nor particularly funny. In fact, that sums up how I felt about the entire film.

Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1104733/

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2008 Mark R. Leeper