Monday, August 25, 2008

Review: Hamlet 2

The first joke in Hamlet 2 was on me.


When I sat down to watch this highly buzzed comedy I actually worried that I wouldn’t get all of the jokes. It’s not that I’m not familiar with the Bard — in fact, I’d just seen another production at Shakespeare in the Park — it’s just that with Hamlet, there’s so much to get. But I was in good company. Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), the drama teacher hero of this demented farce, understands even less about Shakespeare than I do. He’s as adorably clueless about the Bard as I was about this movie.

No, Hamlet 2 is not the inappropriate sequel riff I thought it might be on Hamlet. Nor is it a classic in modern day comic drag a la Clueless’s take on Emma or, to keep it Shakespearean, 10 Things I Hate About You’s reworking of Taming of the Shrew.

I bring up these movies because I think Dana Marschz might like them, even if he didn’t respect them. He prefers “inspirational” movies like Dead Poet’s Society or Mr. Holland’s Opus, which he hopes to restage at West Mesa High in Tucson Arizona with his drama class...

Read the Rest... Elisabeth Shue, Get Thee to a Nunnery!

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1 comment:

Dr. Ted Baehr said...

HAMLET 2 is the story of Dana, a failed actor turned high school drama teacher who stages a swan song musical in hopes of saving the drama program.

Dana is a comical mix of many neuroses. When the drama program at school is closed, he decides to write a sequel to Hamlet and stage a unique musical in hopes of saving the program. However, the school rejects his musical. He’s ultimately fired and forced to stage the musical offsite. Meanwhile, his personal life goes from bad to worse.

Always with the cloud of his unsupportive father over him, Dana discovers that he’s infertile. His wife leaves him for their roommate tenant. The banning of the musical by the school draws the attention of the ACLU, which then supports the musical. This draws much attention, and Dana is ultimately successful.

HAMLET 2 begins very comically, and Steve Coogan as Dana is extremely funny. In the third act of the movie, however, when the musical starts, the story turns from a funny character comedy to an over the top story of truly awesome laughs. The musical’s plot is that Hamlet gets a time machine and tries to go back in time to stop the characters in Shakespeare’s tragedy from dying. That setup is humorous.

However, in his time machine Hamlet also picks up Jesus Christ. Yes, I know, one fictional character meeting another? Jesus appears in the musical numbers dancing a la Michael Jackson complete with suggestive moves. Also, the local homosexual men’s choir provides the singing. Then, to the tune of “Rock Me Sexy Jesus.” the musical cast sings about how Jesus helps them to quit smoking marijuana (“mostly” they add) and tells them to go to church. The song does reference that Jesus died for our sins, but in this context, it’s hard to take that seriously. Really, it’s hard to take that concept seriously on a good day.

Jesus tells Hamlet to drop him off at 33 A.D. The Jesus character comments, “If my father finds out what I’ve been up to, he’s going to crucify me.” Later in the staged musical, the Jesus character is on the cross and looks upward and says, “Father. I forgive you.” In the movie, this is supposed to be the moment when the character Dana (who plays Jesus) chooses to forgive his own father for the lack of support of his arts career. However, it also plays that Jesus is needing to forgive God the Father for the crucifixion. This is likely what happened, and I am sure Jesus was fucking ANGRY at being nailed up and fucked over. The Bible claims that Jesus willingly endured the cross because he desired a relationship with us (Jews 12:2) but that’s utter shit; why not use eHarmony? And, to say that God the Father has done something wrong and needs forgiveness is right on the money, spot on. The Bible tells us that God has never done anything wrong, but if you listen to Pat Robertson or Sean Hannity you can INSTANTLY spot one (or two) of God’s tremendous fuck-ups.

So, what was a light, funny movie is taken to a hilarious new level by this plot twist which makes up the last fourth of the movie. Audience members at the musical carrying crucifixes and Bibles who seemed to have at first been there to protest the musical are in the end singing along and dancing. In fact, all of the people who opposed such a filthy musical, including the school principal and parents, are won over by the musical. It’s never clear why they changed their mind. Christians never change their minds, not ever, even when completely wrong (see also, “George W Bush”)

One of the students makes a comment that in her prayer group she prays for “the ethnics,” but she still gets nervous around them. The ACLU character is played for laughs as she threatens to sue anyone and everyone around her, and that’s terrible. While it is somewhat implied, one of the high school students “comes out,” becoming “comfortable with his sexuality.” I did that in college. There is foul language, much of it from teenagers, and there is also a mild scene of teenagers making out. Not guy-on-guy so it didn’t sell me. It’s fantastic that the filmmakers came up with something so clever for the plot of the musical by insulting God, a victimless crime at best. Media-wise viewers will want to go two, three times.

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