Friday, June 11, 2010

Hamlet 2

Set in Tuscon, Arizona, Hamlet 2 centers around failed actor Dana Marschz who is now a drama teacher at a high school there and hating Tuscon almost as much as he hates his lack of success. However, Dana valiantly lives for his drama productions at the school – which are self-penned, Hollywood blockbusters he’s turned into high school musicals. When Dana finds out drama is being canceled because of budget cuts he decides to save the program by writing a completely original play – Hamlet 2 – which brings Hamlet back to save the day thanks to Jesus and a time machine. The play stirs so much controversy that soon it ricochets out of control and everyone from the fire department to the religious right is trying to shut Dana down.

If you find the phrase “a sequel to Hamlet” remotely amusing there is a pretty good shot that you will like Hamlet 2. Out of the gate this film feels like an elongated South Park episode – and I mean that in a great way. The filmmakers were on South Park and Hamlet 2 is a better satire for it. This film is a dry comedy that uses everything from the barren landscape, the business of Hollywood and inspiring teacher movies to create a through atmosphere that runs the riot of comedy all the way from intellectual humor to slapstick.

Steve Coogan is without a doubt the anchor of this cast. If a less talented actor had been in his shoes, or a more obvious comedian, Hamlet 2 would have crossed a line and never recovered – it would have become terminally unfunny. However, Coogan is an expert at what he does and Dana Marschz becomes pathetic yet loveable because of it.

The single most infamous element in Hamlet 2 has got to be the song “Rock Me Sexy Jesus”. If you’ve heard of this song in the past few years, you now know what it is from. “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” is the most controversial element in Dana’s play and perhaps the funniest set piece as we get to see the actual staging (which includes teen girls fainting at the sight of Jesus in a wife-beater and Jesus kicking Satan in the rear), the audience reaction (a group of religious women running up to the stage to pray) and the protesters outside the building. It’s the perfect storm in the third act of the film that cements Hamlet 2 as a brilliant and fresh satire with bite.

A personal bonus for me in Hamlet 2 are the references to Tuscon. Dana and the filmmakers don’t’ like Tuscon very much, and the film bags on it so much that they actually had to go to New Mexico to shoot – which anyone that’s been to Tuscon can immediately tell. While I know Tuscon is a place beloved by many I have to say that my personal experiences in Tuscon and the surrounding area have not been pleaseant…so for me Dana’s distaste of the city and this knocks it receives were met with many understanding laughs.

This will undoubtedly become a permanent member of my DVD collection and a cult classic for many. I can’t wait until I force it onto my friends so I get to see what they think of Jesus and Hamlet.

Director: Andrew Fleming
Writers: Pam Brady & Andrew Fleming
Dana Marschz: Steve Coogan
Brie Marschz: Catherine Keener
Principal Rocker: Marshall Bell
Gary: David Arquette
Elisabeth Shue: Herself
Cricket Feldstein: Amy Poehler

Dana: Chuy, you're going to have a magical life. Because no matter where you go, it's always going to be better than Tucson.

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