Broke as a joke Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), is a bizarre former professional actor who teaches drama poorly at a school in Tuscon, Arizona. Unable to put on a quality play or to attract students into his class, the school decides to no longer offer drama. A change in circumstance causes an influx of students into his class. Racial conflict and jealousy stir up in the class room. Inspired by his love for the art of drama, Dana decides to put on the best show possible; his own masterpiece, Hamlet 2. While fighting to keep his job and teach the craft of drama, his wife Brie (Catherine Keener) wants to get pregnant.
Hamlet 2 is constipated comedy. It seems as if it has a load of comedic genus to drop on the audience but itís stuck inside the mind of the writer Pam Brady, writer/director Andrew Flemming and Steve Coogan. It is obvious Brady and Flemming were trying to create a skewed character in Dana, whose distorted point of view would be amusing for people watching him. Dana is distorted but in the way watching someone pick their butt in a grocery store is distorted; not amusing, just ugly.
Brady and Flemming try to make racial tension a bone of humorous contention in Hamlet 2. Characters Rand Posin (Skylar Astin) and Epiphany Sellars (Phoebe Strole) are the insulated whities who want to be tolerant but are in the end, ignorant numbskulls.
Octavio (Joseph Julian Soria), Chuy (Michael Exparanza) and Ivonne (Melonie Diaz) are the Mexican ďforeignersĒ who act wildly in class. Both sides of this racial tension are dull, shallow and unable to pull off the true pull necessary to make the conflict funny. The comments donít go far enough to make them over the top and arenít smart enough to be said without exaggeration.
The plot of Hamlet 2 couldnít be more formulaic. The plot has been seen in many a stupid comedy before, the idiot overcomes by being an idiot. It is the cinematic equivalent of X + Y = Z therefore Z ĖX = Y. After watching the first twenty minutes of Hamlet 2, an average viewer would be able to guess the outcome, a tragedy for a comedy that attempts to be an exaggerated expression of off-beat characters.
Hamlet 2 was especially frustrating because it had moments where if the acting and writing had been just a little bit better, or a tiny bit more inspired, as if someone had bumped the writers while they were writing, it would have been brilliant. The movie has narration that comes and goes in Shakespeare-ish styling but it does not continue consistently throughout the movie. There are amusing titles during the Hamlet 2 to indicate the next act but they donít shimmer enough to earn vocal laughter.
The closest to getting a character right is American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Cricket Feldstein (Amy Poehler). She is written to epitomize the stereotype of the crazy reactionary sue happy nut job that resides in the minds of most of the American public. Poehler holds nothing back, giving such unrelenting wackiness to Cricket.
The most nauseating part of Hamlet 2 was the utter religiosity of the play. It is nothing more than a glorified church sketch. Could we please actually have a play about not liking Jesus? That would be irreverent and controversial.
Hamlet 2 didnít make me fall asleep but it didnít inspire me to stay awake either. Hamlet 2 should be called uninspired in the nicest way possible.
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