Written by: Mike Caccioppoli, Feature Film Critic
A great performance from Steve Coogan saves a potentially mediocre movie.
Steve Coogan is one funny dude. To say that he saves Hamlet 2 from being a middling affair is an understatement. Coogan plays high school drama teacher Dana Marschz, an out of work actor who even when he was working didn’t get much more work than the occasional herpes commercial. His high school which is in Tucson, Arizona doesn’t care much about its drama program but Dana does care, maybe too much. His plays thus far have received only negative reviews by the school drama critic and Dana doesn’t shy away from confronting the little twit to tell him how he feels. When he’s informed that the school is going to drop the drama program all together he knows that he must stage his best show yet in order to try and save it.
Unlike The Rocker, Andrew Fleming’s film does allow us to care about its sometimes crazed, always driven main character. Marschz (make sure you pronounce the z) is so passionate about theatre and its possibilities that it becomes infectious, not only to his students, but to us as well. Coogan, never one to shy away from playing damaged, eccentric people, is at home playing Marschz, he seems to really understand this guy and it shows. Once again we’re dealing with a well worn formula, the inspirational teacher film, but Hamlet 2 is smart enough to be able to parody the genre while also embracing it at the same time. When it comes time to perform his piece de resistance the film throws caution to the wind as it delivers a musical that has Coogan playing a cool, hip Jesus that is loved by the women. Of course some of the residents of Tucson are up in arms especially the parents of the students. It gets to the point where the ACLU sends in a representative, aptly named Cricket Feldstein (a foul-mouthed Amy Poehler) to make sure the production isn’t stopped.
As I mentioned Hamlet 2 relies heavily on the performance of Coogan to make it rise above mediocrity and he doesn’t fail. Coogan delivers a performance that’s right up there with some of the best comedic turns in recent memory, his Dana Marschz is clumsy, nutty, and all heart. While the filmmakers know that art is often controversial, Marschz just wants to finally do something worthy of his somewhat marginal talents, and by God he’ll do it even if it kills him. Or should I say by Jesus?