The film starts off with a collage of the "work" of actor Dana Marchz (Steve Coogan) including infomercials and roles in Xena, showing real humorous potential. Cut to the present where he is a depressed but optimistic dweeb acting teacher in Tucson. He is on the verge of losing the drama department due to the lack of talent in his plays (stage versions of movies like Erin Brockovich) plus fiscal cutbacks and a really mad, conservative principal (the always underrated Marshall Bell) who hates his guts. He then inadvertently adopts a bunch of inner-city kids into his class and comes up with the idea to do a sequel to Hamlet. Since everyone dies in the first one, as we all know, Marchz (his name is constantly mispronounced) solves that problem with a time machine, Jesus and a lot of gay references.
Steve Coogan is brilliant in the lead role, but perhaps too brilliant - he is given way too much leeway to over act. At first it works, but then it becomes tedious and overkill. Coogan's character drains you of any sympathy and after a while you just want to punch him in the face. As Marchz's wife Brie, Katherine Keener does her smartest and bitchiest person in the room shtick (nothing new there), and drinks a margarita that's the size of a Herculean goblet. Then there's Elizabeth Shue, playing herself, and has given up on acting and become a nurse. This is, thankfully, underplayed.
There are some real comic moments throughout the film, but what it lacks is timing. By this I mean things like long, drawn-out scenes where nothing is integral to the plot and long pauses after things that should be funny but aren't funny - and then the pause is supposed to be the funny part. What I found most humorous were the little throwaway lines, like referring to the Patch Adams star as Robin C. Williams .
There are some first-rate funny one-liners, but engaging quips don't make a movie. Missing entirely was any kind of build-up to the actual play. The supposed show- stopper song "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" is a letdown and I hope this was the point. The movie should've spent more time building suspense (or at least interest) in pre-production rehearsals along the lines of Waiting for Guffman. Better yet, taking a cue from writer Pam Brady's contribution to Team America: World Police, this film would have been way funnier if the whole thing was done in puppet form.
I think that the premise and production of this movie was designed to frustrate the audience, to lead us to water and then not allow us to drink. H2 is one big façade to force the audience to watch something half-ass satisfying. I could just feel writers Brady and Andrew Fleming (who is also the director) wishing to be the flies on the wall watching audiences NOT laugh and NOT understand parts of this movie. It seems to be the ultimate in-joke-as if we, the consummate test audience, are the joke, sitting back and feeling duped. In theory, that's kind of a good idea, but when you're the guinea pig, it's not. I understand that really bad, meaningless, cute, touching, politically incorrect, wacky and wrong humor can make everyone laugh, but I think the director and writer are laughing at the audience's expense-which just dries out hope of having any real feeling towards this movie. Hamlet 2 could've soared into dazzling hilarity, but the never ending in-joke and flat material, although weirdly fresh, is just not that funny.
Hamlet 2 ★★✩✩✩
Starring: Steve Coogan, Katherine Keener, David Arquette, Elizabeth Shue
Director: Andrew Fleming
To laugh or not to laugh. Hamlet 2 is a mixed bag of treats, missed opportunities, inspired comic genius, dull plodding and failed timing. In short, some parts are good, while others...not so much.