This summer is beginning to look a lot like last year’s; this means that we are probably going to get one good movie, Toy Story 3, and everything else will be an incomprehensible blur of flashy explosions accompanied by a deafening soundtrack. Maybe Nolan’s Inception might save the summer, and Sorcerer’s Apprentice might not be that bad, but in a summer which had Prince of Persia as its middle point, chances seem slim. Thankfully, we have other means of watching films outside the box office. Although it is still the best way to watch them, iTunes rentals are still possible and we can post reviews like this one.
Hamlet 2, is one of those films the highlights the fact that most of American cinema’s artistic innovations, that is the innovations free of technology, lie outside the Hollywood studio funded film. Working outside Hollywood, the filmmaker does not need to worry about broadening the film’s target audience to points where it ends up alienating everyone except tween douche bags who whistle every time miss Fox appears on screen. The film is, in fact, very conscious about this and pokes fun every chance it gets at the higher powers behind any film or theater production. In short, Hamlet 2 tells the story of how a drama teacher from Tuscon, Arizona and his class put together the most offensive theater production conceivable: a sequel to Hamlet, featuring a time traveling sexy Jesus, who can moonwalk on water, and an Albert Einstein who suffers from sexual trauma after he was raped in the face. Is this movie that tasteless? Well a girl who helped Trey Parker write South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut, and Team America: World Police wrote it, so yeah… it is (although it is not as offensive).
Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) is a down beat recovering alcoholic teacher who has watched every 80s genre movie in existence; so, he thinks of himself as one of those inspiring teachers that will get those “unfortunate ethnic” kids into college. When the parents of one of his Mexican students don’t allow their son to be in the play he immediately assumes there are some parental macho issues to blame when in reality they both have PhDs in literature and are simply offended that a nobody high school teacher is actually trying to make a sequel to one of the greatest works of English literature. Yet Marschz is convinced that his personal unresolved daddy issues have produced a masterpiece in Hamlet 2. The rest of the movie actually plays like your average inspirational teacher story but without the inspiration as it gently pokes fun at the genre these kids do not need any saving, they are normal as high school kids can probably get in Tuscon; it is the teacher so full of himself that probably needs the saving. The rest of the plot is filled with characters that you are familiar with in similar movies: the principal who will stop at nothing to put an end to the show, the leftist lawyer who will stop at nothing to make sure free speech triumphs and the show goes on, etc. There is also a nice sub-plot involving Elizabeth Shu (best known for her role as the romantic interest in the original Karate Kid) playing herself. She has retired from the business and now works as a nurse in a Tuscon clinic. When Mr. Marschz recognizes her he flips; she is his favorite actress even when nobody else knows who she is. And a sweet love story develops out of the nicety of being appreciated.
In the tradition of the original Hamlet, and countless theater movies, we get a play within a play and a glimpse of what Hamlet 2 would look like. And it doesn’t look that bad. From what I could gather the sequel makes sense even when everyone dies at the end of the first one. I’ll let you judge that one to the movie I give it a 4.