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Hamlet 2

Steve Coogan Conquers All Bad Moods

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating


Hamlet 2

Steve Coogan and Catherine Keener in a scene from "Hamlet 2"

Focus Features
I was five minutes late to Hamlet 2, and in a foul mood. After getting my seat, I had to catch my breath, and when I finally considered what was happening up on screen, I found myself irritated by Steve Coogan, with an awful hair cut and an American accent, making an inspirational speech to a bunch of motley, mainly Hispanic students. And then, he kicked one of his students in the head with a bucket.

Boom. I laughed.

The marvelous British actor Steve Coogan (Tristam Shandy, Coffee and Cigarettes) plays Dana Marschz, a failed actor turned high school drama teacher in Andrew Fleming's irreverent comedy Hamlet 2. Through the course of the film, he injures the same doleful teenage girl on numerous occasions, and I laughed each and every time, once in anticipation of the hit.

The lowbrow humor in Hamlet 2 works consistently well, but much more intelligent jokes are launched from the wry lips of Catherine Keener, who is terrific as Coogan's unhappy wife. She drinks the biggest margarita ever seen on camera and licks the salt right off the rim. (There's also a Roland Barthes joke.)

When his class is about to be canceled, Marschz drafts a sequel to the Bard's tragedy about the Melancholy Dane, which leads to riffs about the hardships of writing which I loved -- including the presence of a watchful pet, witnessing the agonizing process. Academy Award nominee Elisabeth Shue plays academy award nominee Elisabeth Shue, and she makes joke after joke at her own expense while wearing a nurses uniform.

A sustained parody of inspirational films about teachers, Hamlet 2 concludes with a rousing production. The musical numbers, including "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" are overkill, but the participation of the Tuscon Arizona's gay men's choir is wonderfully funny. Amy Poehler appears as media savvy lawyer with a Jewish last name, and the teenagers (including Be Kind Rewind's Melonie Diaz) who both mock and aid their not-so-beloved teacher are surprisingly sweet.

Hamlet 2 (2008)

Director: Andrew Fleming (Dick, Threesome)

Writers: Andrew Fleming and Pam Brady (South Park, Team America)

Cast: Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, Amy Poehler, David Arquette, Elisabeth Shue, Melonie Diaz

Opens August 29, 2008.

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