Hamlet 2 is one of those movies that you simply don’t (and can’t) expect, and I mean that in a good way. Is it a satire on inspirational teacher movies? Yes. Is it a parody of great-but-misunderstood-artist movies? Yes. Does it mock innocent-white-girl-falls-for-tough-chicano-gang-banger? Yes.
Does it insult Tucson? Yes. Does David Arquette’s character say less than 10 words in his running cameo? Yes (approximately). Does Elisabeth Shue have a small part? Yes. Who does she play? Herself, working as a nurse at a Tucson hospital after burning out and leaving Hollywood behind.
Does the inspirational teacher go on an acid trip? Yes. Is Catherine Keener both a) looking her age and b) still damn sexy? Yes (pay attention, Hollywood and actresses).
Is there a song in the play-within-the-film called Rock Me, Sexy Jesus? Yes (see photo, above). Is it funny in spite of the fact that it sounds like it would be stupid? Yes. Is there a song in the play-within-the-film called Raped in the Face? Uh, yes. Is it as bad as it sounds? Uh, yes…and no.
So, if I were reading this review, this is the point where I would probably tune out and go look for some other movie to watch. However, I would end up missing out on a very original and funny film. However, the description above sounds like it could be describing a painfully juvenile, unfunny schlock-fest. Well, this film has all of those elements, but it *knows* it has those elements, and it mocks those elements before turning them on their head and…well…er…raping them in the face, I guess?
Anyway, the basic storyline centers on a high school theater teacher named Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) - the last name is pronounced “marsh-z”, like the word marsh, but with a tiny, quick little zzz sound tacked onto the end. Coogan plays Marschz as a sort of bastard love child of Tiny Tim, Eric Idle, Pee Wee Herman, and Weird Al Yankovich (try not to visualize). His story is that from the time he was a young boy in Canada he wanted to act on the stage, and he pursued his dream in spite of the objections (and molestations) of his father. However, he has come to the latter half of his life and has realized that while he has a pure and perfect love for acting on the stage, he doesn’t have any talent for it. So, he now finds himself teaching high school theater in Tucson for gas money.
The highlight of each semester is, of course, the staging of a big play. Marschz typically stages plays based on recent popular movies (Erin Brockovich, for example), and he’s as good of a director as he is an actor, which is that he isn’t. His nemesis is a young boy who writes for the school paper and gives his plays scathingly bad reviews. His cohorts are the two (and only two) theater geek kids in the school, who are equally untalented.
However, with the start of the new semester the class ends up full, due to the cancellation of most other elective courses. And the influx of new students is made up almost entirely of Hispanic kids, who could not care less about theater, at least at first. However, Mr. Marschz, while a bit of a Magoo, is not a complete fool or clown, and he does actually manage to begin to reach these keeeds.
However, just when things are looking up, Marschz learns that the school will be cutting the theater program completely at the end of the semester. And that his pregnant wife (Keener) is leaving him – for another man, who happens to be their boarder (David Arquette) as well as the father of her child. Oh, and Marschz also learns that he’s infertile and has been “firing blanks”. And, finally, he falls off his seven year sobriety wagon by going on a bender fueled by schnapps, grain alcohol, and roller skates.
Sounds like a hoot, huh? Well, he’s also managed to write an original play with the hopes of staging it to show the school that he can, in fact, provide an inspirational and productive theater class environment. The play is called Hamlet 2, and it is exactly that – the sequel to the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. Now, the fact that all of the principle characters are dead by the end of the original Hamlet is no problem because he devises a…
You know what? I’ll let you find out that part for yourself. Suffice it to say that the first 3/4 of the film are a buildup to the grand finale, which is the play. That leadup is so funny that I was afraid there would be no way for the play-within-the-film to live up to the leadup. But it does, it is hilarious.
Is the play a success? Yes. Is there a happy ending? Yes. Does Amy Poehler’s ACLU-lawyer character say that the “Bible humpers” who are protesting the blasphemous content of the play can “suck on a bag of dicks”? Yes.
If you can see how that line could be funny and absurd, then Hamlet 2 might be the right film for you.