Review: Hamlet 2
Plot: Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), a failed, untalented actor- works as a drama coach in a Tuscon, AZ high school. When he finds out his beloved drama department is being shut down, Marschz tries to save the day by writing his own play - a sequel to Hamlet, featuring (among other things) time machines & Jesus.
Review: Iím a big Steve Coogan fan. While he isnít really that well known in the U.S, Iím a bit of an Anglophile, and Iíve been enjoying his work for years. His Alan Partridge is a work of genius, and I especially liked Coogan in TRISTRAM SHANDY, which was criminally under seen (although probably a bit too high brow for mass consumption) when it hit theaters a few years ago.
So far, Cooganís work in American films has been pretty week. AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS was a disaster, and while he was funny in TROPIC THUNDER, he was totally overshadowed by the rest of the cast. Now, finally, Coogan gets his shot at the big time with HAMLET 2- which I think just might be the best thing heís ever done.
I absolutely loved this film. From the first frame of the film, featuring cuts from Marschz less than stellar showbiz career (which includes a herpes cream commercial & a stint on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS), to the closing credits, I was in hysterics throughout. This is great, character based comedy, similar to what Peter Sellers used to do in his heyday. Cooganís Dana Marschz manages to be both funny, and even strangely touching at times, as he injects the character with some real pathos. Sure, Marschz (pronounced Marz-shhhzzz) may be untalented and not too bright- be heís so sincere that by the end of the film Iíd be willing to bet that most audience members will be rooting for him.
Marschzís Magnus opus - the play within the film, HAMLET 2 - has to be seen to be believed. The play is so completely over the top and insane, especially once Coogan dresses up as Jesus Christ and performs a number called Rock Me Sexy Jesus that I wish someone would actually turn it into a real play.
While Rock Me Sexy Jesus would easily have been enough to get the film an easy recommendation, it still has a lot of other things going for it. The supporting cast is exceptionally strong, particularly Elizabeth Shue who plays a caricature of herself. I should note that as a child I had a MONSTER crush on Shue, and amazingly she still looks just as hot as she did twelve years ago in LEAVING LAS VEGAS. I also liked seeing Catherine Keener as Marschz bitchy wife. As previously shown by 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, Keenerís got a real knack for comedy. Her interplay with David Arquette- who plays the coupleís pea-brained border, is priceless. Amy Poehler from SNL also pops up in a tiny role as an ACLU lawyer, and sheís got some really quotable dialogue towards the end that I wonít ruin here.
After seeing HAMLET 2, I can understand why it caught on so well at Sundance. Itís a truly great comedy, although itís a shame that itís opening so hot on the heels of the equally great TROPIC THUNDER, as itís bound to be overshadowed. If HAMLET 2 hits a theater near you, I strongly recommend checking it out. While it may not break any box office records, itís (for me anyway) one of the highlights of the year, and I hope it catches on.
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