The new to DVD “Hamlet 2″ is popping up on a few year-end movie lists.
And not the good kind.
The indie comedy doesn’t deserve such disrespect. Star Steve Coogan all but bullies you into laughing at his pathetic character, a delusional drama teacher who thinks creating a sequel to a Shakespeare classic is the highest form of art.
Still, it’s a clunky comedy, one that tries to spoof censorship, the ACLU and drama geeks and misses every target. But you’ll laugh along just the same – unless you live in Tucson. Man, “Hamlet 2″ has it in for that Arizona city.
Coogan plays a failed actor – and failing drama teacher – named Dana Marschz who puts on horrible plays each year based on Hollywood movies.
Note to all: “Patch Adams” should never be performed on stage.
His life gets worse when he finds out his school’s drama department is about to be shuttered. So he tries to nudge his students into one last play – a sequel to “Hamlet.”
It’s horrible, of course, but it gets the attention of local media when some of its naughtier content leaks to the press. Suddenly, this sad sack of a teacher is the newest symbol for free speech.
Running gags and some well-timed slapstick keeps “Hamlet 2″ from succumbing to its baser instincts. Coogan, perhaps better known for his explosive role in “Tropic Thunder,” makes Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland look like slackers here. His willingness to turn a simple pratfall into a mild form of torture imbues his character with just enough pathos for us to hang by his side.
His co-stars aren’t so fortunate. The great Catherine Keener looks bored as Dana’s wife, and a wasted subplot involving Elisabeth Shue playing herself taps none of its comic potential.
The play itself is a bit of a dud. It’s not raunchy or offensive enough to make us break a sweat, and it’s actually tuneful at times despite flowing from Dana’s talent-free imagination.
“Hamlet 2″ will appeal to recovering drama nerds, Coogan fans and anyone who doesn’t mind seeing a loser get one last grasp at the brass ring.