What happens to an actor when they can’t make it in show business? In the case of Steve Coogan’s character in the film, Hamlet 2, they move to Tucson and run the drama department at a high school, being forced to commute to work on roller skates because they can’t afford a car.
Hamlet 2, which is directed by Andrew Fleming, centers on David Marschz (Steve Coogan), a failed actor who now works at a high school in Tucson, teaching drama to kids. When the principal informs him that the drama department is being shut down at the end of the semester due to budget cuts, Marschz (pronounced Mars-chhh-zzz) sets out to produce a play in the hopes of inspiring people to donate funds to save the department. Marschz decides that he doesn’t like how things ended for the characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and works to write a sequel to the play, which involves a time machine and some other famous people from history.
While working on the play, Coogan has to deal with his perpetually grumpy wife (Catherine Keener), strange and boring boarder, Gary (David Arquette), rag-tag bunch of street kids who don’t get along with the only two drama-geeks participating in the play as well as the resistance of the principal and some of the parents who think the play is too offensive and controversial . Fortunately, Hamlet 2 gives Marschz new direction and the opportunity to show people what he’s capable of.
There’s a fair amount of vulgarity and all-out ridiculousness with regards to the humor in the film but that’s definitely not a complaint. Then again, I’m not easily offended. Coogan does a great job of making Marschz’s character pathetic, desperate and at the same time, not entirely unlikable. The writing, dialogue and the excellent comedic timing of the cast (especially Elisabeth Shue, Phoebe Strole and Catherine Keener) make Hamlet 2 a gut-buster. Whether it's Elizabeth Shue (who plays herself in the film) allowing herself to be made fun of, Amy Pohler portraying the hilarious ACLU lawyer, Phoebe Strole’s character Epiphany’s fear of “ethnics” or Keener’s character’s bitchiness, the film is full of hilarious women.
When Marschz is hitting rock bottom, he describes his life as a parody of a comedy and in many ways, he’s right. The more things fall apart, the funnier the film gets but the ultimate hilarity doesn’t ensue until the final act when we get to see just how funny a sequel to Hamlet can be.
Even more than the laughs, what stands out the most in the play within the movie is the music.. Between the cast’s performance of the original song, “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” and the local gay choir’s rendition of Elton John’s "Someone Saved My Life Tonight", the play takes the level of greatness in the film from funny to hilarious and left me feeling great as I left the theater.