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Review: Hamlet 2

03.12.2008

PLOT: A washed-up actor turned high school drama teacher, launches his most ambitious project yet - a sequel to "Hamlet" - all while dealing with budget cuts, unruly students, a crazy wife and Elisabeth Shue. Yes, Elisabeth Shue.

This is a review of a work-in-progress print from ShoWest.

REVIEW: HAMLET 2 was much-hyped out of Sundance and as the movie began I was wondering if that was because it's a great movie or because it was an overall weak lineup at Sundance this year. Turns out it's a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

HAMLET 2 isn't hilarious despite what you may have heard. You won't guffaw loudly with big over-the-top laughs. But I am happy to report that it is a funny film. While the laughs aren't always huge, it kept me consistently chuckling throughout and unlike many comedies it actually got funnier as it went along. It's hard to say this about a movie that features a musical number titled "Raped In The Face," but it's actually quite charming too.

In the film Steve Coogan stars as Dana Marschz an overly dramatic man still dreaming of a career in the arts. He stages poorly received plays based on Hollywood hits (ERIN BROCKOVICH and MISSISSIPPI BURNING) with his drama class of two in Arizona. When budget cuts infuse his classroom with a bunch of unruly teens, Marschz (whose complicated name becomes a running gag) finds himself challenged. His answer? Well, just take a look at the title.

The film was introduced with hopes that it would be this year's LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE or JUNO. But I don't think either of those films sang songs about man spunk (at least not that I remember). Raunchier than most indie comedies tend to be, HAMLET 2 certainly doesn't pull any punches. It gets downright vulgar and the "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" is hilariously offensive.

While the majority of the cast worked for me (including the aforementioned Elisabeth Shue who is incredible), I did have problems with both Coogan and Catherine Keener who stars in a subplot as Marschz's nasty pothead wife. While Keener has some funny lines, her character just distracts from the momentum and energy you get with the high school kids. And Coogan does a capable job but it feels like he's channeling Michael Scott ("The Office") by way of Kenneth the Page ("The Office"). I'm not sure why they didn't let Coogan use his natural British accent to add a little more to the character.

I was told the version we saw was different from the version screened in Sundance and will be different when its hits theaters. This means the filmmakers are still tweaking and with some slight changes, this film could really make an impression this summer. The songs are catchy and there's enough material to have people quoting one-liners for months to come. Temper the hype in your brain and you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Grade: 7/10

Source: JoBlo.com

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