Hamlet 2

Written by Andrew Fleming & Pam Brady
Directed by Andrew Fleming
Starring Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, Elisabeth Shue, David Arquette

Hamlet 2 is the last hurrah of summer comedies, and as such, it’s a bit underwhelming. The laughs are infrequent, and not exactly rumpus inducing. However, thanks to an above average start as well as finish, and a brilliant performance from Brit star, Steve Coogan, it’s undeniably not terrible. It even manages to slide past mediocrity! It earns such a fervently expressed accolade by telling a conventional story in a slightly less than conventional fashion…Kinda.

The story follows a wacky, perhaps substandard, drama teacher Dana Marschz (don’t worry, no one in the movie can pronounce his last name either) as he tries to keep drama class in school by putting on the ambitious original play, Hamlet 2. The movie seems to take aim at all inspiring teacher movies, such as Mr. Holland’s Opus or Dead Poets Society, but it actually is one. Yes, it’s a silly comedy with appropriately silly antics, but that’s merely a charade to cover up that it really is an inspirational teacher movie that even seems to try to win over our hearts by the end credits. Deceptive methods aside, the conventional plot is presented in a peculiar way. Particularily the opening 15 minutes, which hands-down is the best part of this film, where we are immediately thrown at Coogan’s character in a frantic, messy fashion. It feels like they didn’t really know how to start this movie, or how to introduce the players, and it actually benefits it, becuase it feels fresh. Accidental success is no less succesful than other successes. Right? The movie loses it’s unorthodox feel after a bit and soon it’s nothing special, and nothing all that entertaining.

It’s a long wait until it picks up again when Dana, and his students, finally perform the play to close out the picture. Even then, we only see two musical sequences, and while fun, they are not great. The hyped song, “Rock Me Sexy Jesus”, is good and worth a chuckle, but nothing more. Then the movie ends, and it quickly escapes your memory, everything, except Steve Coogan.

Steve Coogan gives us a comedic performance for the ages. I’m not familiar with his previous work (other than Tropic Thunder and a memorable bit part in Hot Fuzz), but after seeing him in Hamlet 2, I’m convinced he’s one of the most gifted comedic actors on this planet. He’s the first to surpass Jim Carrey with use of facial comedy. He, like Carrey, has an uncanny awareness and subsequent control of his face, and he puts it to use with full force. It’s very rare he delivers a line without some sort of hysterical contortion. After delivering his dialogue, the camera tends to sit on Coogan, as he delivers one of a variety of brilliant expressions, as if to be a signature for each line. I won’t go as far as to say he’s subtle, but compared to Carrey he’s the utmost version of understated. Pretty much every laugh comes from Coogan’s role, which prompts the realization that this could have been a train wreck, without such a conductor as Steve Coogan.

Hamlet 2 is co-written by Pam Brady, co-writer of South Park and Team America. I expected more from someone affiliated with some of the most brilliant, and thoughtful comedy in history. Oh well. The movie may be full of disappointment and David Arquette (annoying even with only having a couple brief lines) but it gives us an endlessly promising actor, already renowned in the Mother Country (lets just ignore that he was accused of eagerly supplementing his friend Owen Wilson’s drug addction which lead to the infamous suicide attempt). More specifically it gives us a performance worth seeing. I can’t reccomend you spend your hard earned cash at the theatre, but it’s a must rent.

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