MPAA #: 44121
Seat: Lower right
Weather: warm (post-hurricane)
Food: Dr. Pepper, M&Ms Dark
Audience: about 12
Pre-show Ads: Mazda
Trailers: Appaloosa, Burn After Reading
“My life is a parody of a tragedy,” moans Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan). His wife is leaving him, he has failed as an actor and a teacher, and his last-ditch effort to save the school drama department- an original script called Hamlet 2- has been banned from the school due to offensive content. Will he persevere to realize his dreams and in so doing inspire his students to become his people?
Not exactly. His students already are pretty good people, whereas Dana is a recovering alcoholic who grew up in Manitoba and hates his father. He teaches drama to the same two students every year in Tuscon, Arizona, while his wife (Catherine Keener) pines for children and possibly their boarder (David Arquette). Dana is as bad a teacher as he was an actor, penning original plays based on popular movies, which are subsequently panned by the school’s sophomore theatre critic.
When the local school board cuts all of the arts programs except for drama, Dana finds himself with a couple dozen new students, mostly from the local latino community. He tries to relate to them by constantly referencing inspirational teacher movies, including Dead Poets Society, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and Dangerous Minds. This tactic fails miserably, leading to one of many breakdowns which, if nothing else, prompts the students to try to boost his spirits. The students get some help from supporting players Elisabeth Shue (playing herself, supposedly retired from acting), Amy Poehler as an ACLU lawyer, and Nat Faxon as a copy shop employee.
Hamlet 2 is a twisted and sometimes surprisingly insightful examination of the role of art, of amateur theatre, celebrity, musicals, parenting, race relations, and much more. It was written by South Park writer Pam Brady and director Andrew Fleming, but I am guessing that Steve Coogan and his co-stars had a certain amount of latitude to improvise. Unlike many of the comedies I have seen this year, Hamlet 2 is very well written and performed but also has a sharp edge. Like the play-within-the-film, it is not afraid to offend or horrify the audience with musical numbers like “Raped in the Face” or “Rock Me Sexy Jesus.” And unlike nearly every film I can think of that climaxes with the kids putting on a show, this is a show that actually pays off, that I would actually like to see.
Crowd reaction at end of movie: positive
Credit cookie?: no, but there is an additional song played over the credits that you should stay for.
Opening next week: The Women, Burn After Reading, Righteous Kill, The Family That Preys
Please god, anything but: The Women