Hamlet 2 (2008) — No, it’s not a true sequel but go with it anyway

“I’m having a herpes outbreak, right now — but you’d never know it. Thanks, Herpocol!”

Lissa’s rating: The combination of “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” and “Little Boxes” running through my head is very, very uncomfortable.

Lissa’s review: There’s a special class of movies that seem almost too bad to be true, and then when you watch them, you find out that hey — they’re actually really funny and really good and the marketing people suck. The head of the class, golden child of this grouping for me is Saved! It was a premise that should not have worked and a trailer that made the movie look incredibly stupid, and yet when I watched it in its entirety it was thoughtful, funny, and I ended up really enjoying it. I’m now cursing Saved!, because it makes me think that other movies out there that might be like it.

So, I went to see Hamlet 2. The premise of a horrible-actor-turned-drama teacher writing a sequel for Hamlet definitely qualifies as whacked out. And it did have a lot of potential, and a lot of funny moments. But at the same time… meh.

Steve Coogan is Dana Marschz, the above-mentioned actor-turned-drama teacher. He’s a complete and utter loser, and everyone knows it. Interestingly enough, so does he in his more lucid moments. But Dana has dreams. He wants to be an inspiring teacher. He wants to be an artist. And he wants to have a child. This all sounds great and normal, and when the school decides to start cutting budgets, Dana gets his chance to be a hero. First, a bunch of “underprivileged” (and I put that word in quotes for a very valid reason) youths show up in his drama class, and then he has to fight to save the drama department. In other hands, this movie would have gone straight into the inspiring-teacher-movie mold that Dana so admires.

However, Dana’s loser-dom is really cringeworthy. He’s so earnest, and so clueless, and there’s enough physical slapstick that it just… I found myself hiding my face and cringing in embarrassment for the poor guy. Some of it was too-close-to-home syndrome. Because admit it, if you’re thinking about teaching, there’s a little part of you that dreams about being the inspiring type of teacher that comes in movies. Now, most of us are realistic enough to know not to base careers on Hollywood, but Dana’s dreams almost ridicule that particular spark. And let’s not even talk about his views on his father, okay?

But the thing is, Dana Marschz is a genuinely nice guy. That’s what kept me from not walking out of the first half of the movie, which was basically “How much of a loser Dana Marschz is.” For all that he was an embarrassing character to watch, his motives and his heart were quite pure. He was just clueless.

Then the actual Hamlet 2 play came into being, and the whole movie shifted.

The first half, the set up, isn’t all that great. The second half is a whole other story. Once the class shifts into production on the play, the movie really picks up and starts genuinely becoming funny. And once the play is in production… I was really glad I suffered through the first half. It’s not just the play itself, but the satire and sarcasm and the way the humor picks up. It sounds hokey and the pictures in magazines look dumb, but believe me — “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” is still sticking with me weeks later (even if I only know a few of the lyrics). The movie turns smart, and it’s almost unexpected. And I laughed — I laughed hard.

I don’t know. Should you see it in theaters? Well, maybe, depends on how attached to your money you are. It will probably be out quickly enough on DVD that you won’t have to wait too long. Honestly, I’d probably wait for DVD, especially if you’re the type that gets embarrassed buying a ticket. It’s really got its moments, but that’s not me saying, “Drop everything and see it now”, y’know? It’s a weird movie that I can’t quite commit to a full opinion of, and I suspect I’d need to see it again to really know what I think. Note that I’m not willing to spend the eight bucks or the rare afternoon off to do so.

Anyway, I think this might be a love-it-or-hate-it movie (erm, my previous waffling being really concrete evidence for that statement), and so it really depends on your tolerance for humiliating humor. I guess the best summary I can give you is that it strikes me as High School Musical’s geeky younger brother strung out on crack, so if you think that sounds like fun, you should check it out.

Didja notice?

  • How funny it is to read the IMDb boards and find people really thinking this is a sequel to Hamlet?
  • What Jesus had to do with Hamlet?
  • Maniac! One of the best versions I’ve ever heard.
  • Epiphany and Rand. Makes me wonder what the writers are saying about The Fountainhead.
  • Light sabers make everything cooler.
  • Global Warming. It’s not cool.
  • You know what I need? A pen that lights up so I can take notes during movies in theaters.

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