Hamlet 2
This Is How Low You Can Go

Before you read this review, I feel compelled to explain that my choice to refrain from joining the South Park fan club has no bearing on my sense of humor—lest anyone presume that I am simply unable to appreciate a well-done movie that knocks political correctness on its backside. “Alas, poor Yorick,” Hamlet 2 is not a good movie.  Its potential as the ultimate spoof of the countless “teacher/no-student-left-behind” classics (such as Stand and Deliver, To Sir With Love, and Desperate Minds) is left in the dust cloud of Steve Coogan’s over-written and overbearing clownish domination of the entire ninety-six minute run time.

Coogan plays Dana Marchz, a desperate (and talentless) actor-wannabe who has resigned himself to teaching drama and “sharing his love of the art” instead. Unfortunately, despite his great passion, his artistic deficiencies are not limited to drama: his writing skills as well as his productions lack just about anything that might approach “art.”

Catherine Keener as Andy in Hamlet 2

When budget cuts slash electives, Drama is the sole elective survivor. Mr. Marchz inherits about twenty students who typically use electives as daily social events. The students represent quite eclectic demographics and attitudes… mostly the attitudes of total disinterest and lack of cooperation.

The primary conflict comes when the Principal delivers the news that Drama will also be cut from the curriculum at the end of the term. Faced with losing his job, Marchz goes on a crusade to save this last vestige of the arts by writing his magnum opus so that he can raise the $6,000 needed to retain the class. The problem is that Dana is completely blocked—no inspiration… no intelligent ideas… no reason to think with his pants on. Of course, eventually his writer’s block breaks and he finishes the definitive musical, Hamlet 2, which is immediately banned from performance at school for its pornographic and seriously religion-bashing content.

Hamlet 2 could have been a very funny movie if screenwriters Pam Brady and Andrew Fleming had shown a little restraint in sexually profane language, and in Dana Marchz’s portrayal of Jesus Christ. Whether it’s director Fleming’s or Coogan’s idea, every titillating phrase out of the characters’ mouths (and there are far too many) is followed by a pregnant pause, as if to make room for audience laughter so that the next bit of dialogue won’t be missed. The other characters are never developed beyond the surface, which is a tragedy considering that some of the young actors appear to have some real talent—but are not given the stage to prove it. Elizabeth Shue, who plays herself, is the only real standout of the group, and I just have to ask why she wanted to be involved with something so low.

While I do not consider myself a rabid religious fundamentalist, I do take exception with the way Jesus’ name and person are so slandered by this movie. It’s as if Brady and Fleming deliberately put a chip on their shoulders so that they could call out the religious right, hoping for publicity. The truly sad thing is that many Christians will probably accommodate them—and I doubt that many theaters in the Bible Belt will even screen this movie.

As if all this isn’t enough, Hamlet 2 also lacks cohesion, plot development, and anyone for whom to really cheer. As the credits rolled, my final thought was, “Is this the future of movie making?”

Hamlet 2 is rated R for “language including sexual references, brief nudity and some drug content”—but it rightfully deserves an NC-17. The language, both sexual and profane, is appalling and excessive. Further, Steve Coogan’s bare derriere gets old even after one baring, and flashes of other parts of his anatomy are completely irrelevant to the film, obviously meant as an “in your face” to movie raters and audiences. Nobody needs to see or hear this stuff!

Courtesy of a local publicist, Kathy attended a promotional screening of Hamlet 2.