Say Cheese: Steve Coogan as Dana Marschz and Amy Poehler as ACLU attorney Cricket Feldstein, in Andy Fleming's "Hamlet 2", which opened in select theaters in the U.S. today.  (Photo: Focus Features)

On Stage: An Uncertain Teacher, Conceiving The Impossible Sequel To A Work Of Rashness
By Omar P.L. Moore/August 22, 2008
Bold, ebullient and sublimely ridiculous, "Hamlet 2" makes for cheeky, scathing theatrical comedy.  Its ambition and intellect are succeeded only by its own satirical splendor, its gleeful pushing of the envelope beyond the realm of political correctness and into the most un-holiest of un-holies: remaking Hamlet, the deadest of dead Danes.  Starring Steve Coogan (the British comedic great who appears in "Tropic Thunder" right now and in the "Night At The Museum" sequel this December) as a drama school teacher whose virility is very much in question and seeks to avoid the knives of a pint-sized theater critic by putting on a play entitled "Rock Me Sexy Jesus", "Hamlet 2" is sharp, funny and invigorating, especially in its final half hour. 
Mr. Coogan plays Dana Marschz -- the pronunciation of the character's last name sounds like a challenge but he pulls it off effortlessly every time -- a forlorn and inadequate man mired in a marriage of pure inconvenience.  So entrenched is Marschz in his own self-loathing, insecurity and public self-ridicule that he is oblivious to Brie, his wife (an excellent Catherine Keeler), whose "friend" Gary (a muted David Arquette) quietly lounges around the house while Brie lacerates and emasculates her inattentive spouse.  Meanwhile, Dana Marschz's first love -- or first love part a -- is his group of unruly theater students, all of whom are Hispanic with the exception of two white students -- one gay, the other a girl with pent up racist sentiments while masquerading as liberal.  They supply a lot of the humor and incorrectness, but so does Amy Poehler (of television's "Saturday Night Live" and the Spring '08 film "Baby Mama") as Cricket Feldstein, an ACLU attorney who zealously defends Marschz's "Sexy Jesus" production against lawsuits and other assorted community outrages.  Ms. Poehler is salty and sensational as the tough, hard-hearted litigator who lets it all hang out, enemies be damned.

In his role Mr. Coogan is zany, energetic -- the right kind of mix to inhabit such a manic and neurotic character.  In a strange way his Dana Marschz is a wild and vulnerable Hamlet of sorts but a Hamlet without a sword -- literally and figuratively.  With his character Mr. Coogan overindulges, and often at that.  He engages in mimicry and unpretentiousness, and his brand of satire and self-deprecation are a perfect tonic.  Melonie Diaz shows promise and smarts as Ivonne, one of Dana's favorite students in drama class -- students who find their own inner voices.  The main ingredient of the comedy scenarios on hand in "Hamlet 2" are the number of times that unintentional intentional faux pas in dialogue or action are caught on camera, both for comedic effect as well as consistency of the wacky narrative as cleverly written by Pam Brady and the film's director Andrew "Andy" Fleming.  "Hamlet 2" coasts by effortlessly at a lean and trim 92 minutes, providing a punch sharper than a jab from a boxing champion's right-cross combination.  No rope-a-dope needed here to make the audience laugh.

"Hamlet 2", which opened today in select U.S. cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles before expanding to other cities next week, also has a friskiness and prickliness to it, enabling it to stand favorably apart from other recent comedies at your multiplex.  A hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Focus Features picked it up for distribution for a record $10.5 million, and it's likely to recoup three or four times that amount in North America.  The film features a recurring punch line that never gets old even though it has every right to.  Bright, audacious and stupendous, "Hamlet 2" would have probably have the Bard Of Avon himself rolling with laughter in his grave.

"Hamlet 2" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for language including sexual references, brief nudity and some drug content.  The film's duration is one hour and 32 minutes.  Go ahead, laugh it up.

Copyright The Popcorn Reel.  2008.  All Rights Reserved.
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