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Hamlet 2 | Review

Drama Queen: Coogan showcase is more miss, than hit

It becomes instantly clear what were the more alluring aspects for a film whose rights’ were swooped away at Sundance with a Little Miss Sunshine price tag. Cluttered by supporting characters (Elizabeth Shue and the zoo of others) that become expendable, it is Steve Coogan’s take as a failed actor/husband/playwright/teacher which grabs the spotlight, and on occasion warrants a laugh. After safe studio fair, director-writer Andrew Fleming’s lowbrow laugher feels like an odd night at the improv — not everything works in the laugh department, but the comedic prowess of the British actor manages to make what would be considered cringe worthy into something that feels in need of a bit more tweaks. Somewhere in Hamlet 2 there is a discourse on America’s renewal with Christian fervor and Hollywood’s authority on and contamination of the arts, but such satire never makes it past the silly stage. In the end, despite the Jesus mockery, this comes across as tame.

This one is for the thousands of kids suffering the long term affects of whacked out drama teachers, and for anyone who dislikes Hollywood’s need to include inspirational figures in its movies. The arts program needs to be saved, and despite the many Hollywood references (e.g. Michel Pfeiffer, Robin Williams) of teachers saving the day, here the narrative purposes that it is the students who save the man who can’t save himself. Fleming and co-writer Pam Brady (of South Park fame), structure the narrative with a Rushmore-like immaturity and rig it with a similar high school year-end play that clashes students and adults, but overall this has strands of Team America: World Police and composed lyrics for songs such as “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” and “Raped in the Face” which follow the same tune as Team America’s “Everyone has Aids”. Throwaway and stereotype characters take up a lot of space, but it is the man with the oddly unpronounceable name who becomes the train wreck you’ll want to watch.

In an expressive role that is perhaps more tongue and “butt” cheek than Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story and 24 Hour Party People, the Brit actor is apt in using up the frame with creative genius and succeeds in creating an empathic character that is also strongly disliked, but in design, the 90-plus minute project is quick to hash out an endless supply of one-liners, the sight gags and put downs that misfire since his character has too much face time and the rest are simply misused. Hamlet 2 proposes that no idea is worse than a sequel, let’s hope they keep this hit and miss at one.

Reviewed on August 18th, 2008

Rating 2 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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