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Hamlet 2 [DVD]
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Goofball comedy starring Steve Coogan as Dana Marschz, a failed actor turned high school drama teacher who attempts to salvage the school's under-achieving, under-funded drama programme by staging one of his own works, a musical sequel to Shakespeare's tragedy 'Hamlet'. Hilarity ensues as Marschz does everything he can to impress the school magazine's drama critic, who made no bones about his contempt for Marschz's previous production - a school play adaptation of 'Erin Brokovich'.
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The theme of the movie is how we deal with unresolved childhood issues with our parents, when these issues confront us in adult life.
The movie humorously asks the viewer to consider 2 things:
1. How different things would be if Hamlet had forgiven his father's murderer right from the beginning - would it have made such an interesting impact on books, education, the movies, stage plays, and tv? Would we even know who William Shakespeare is today, as there have been many actors, authors and movies who names have been relegated to archives never to be remembered unless someone puts together a documentary about them.
2. Whether Jesus forgave his Father for the abandonment on the cross. His pain is duly noted, but no word of forgiveness from Jesus to his Father is actually stated. Forgiveness is assumed and deemed not an issue to Jesus due to his position as The Christ, as the Son of God. Forgiveness is also deemed not an issue to Jesus due to his death on the cross, but in reality most children who feel abandoned and/or betrayed by one parent or two or by a carer and/or trusted family member, be it male or female, develop serious psychological issues in later life.
The Devil plays his part too. In a bizarre paradox twist to the storyline driving the forgiveness message home, Satan is reminding
folks that he'd be out of a job and unemployed if everybody was To Be Or Not To Be, what they're 'supposed' to do or not supposed to have.
The 2 in the movie title indicates that the controversy of a more thought provoking Hamlet/Jesus/Satan combined, only lasts 2 Minutes of the of the full movie and is within the last 20 minutes or so of the movie - Shame! That's not enough controversy for me.
The rest of the movie is utter nonsense in it's build up to this rather unusual version of Hamlet.
It does however, raise some interesting points about the education system and stereotypes.
!. The Arts - whatever genre of The Arts, always suffers, in more ways than one whenever the budget is limited - especially if it's not a curriculum that studies 'The Classics'.
2. Class, culture, education, religious stereotypes - where do you stand? What did you assume from watching the movie?
Although not controversial or entwined, similarly in the 1942 wartime American comedy movie, 'To Be Or Not To Be' set in occupied Poland, starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny, the writers: Melchior Lengyel and Edwin Justus Mayer, use a plot irony to emerge Hamlet and Hitler as heroes of the Polish Resistance and it's English Allies. The plot uses the theatrics of a theatre company to create and stage a diversion against a German spy and against Germany receiving any information from the spy.
There was a remake of 'To Be Or Not To Be' in 1983 starring Mel brooks and Anne Bancroft. The plot remains the same, but there are some scene changes.
Both Hamlet 2 and To Be Or Not To Be centre around a main plot that incorporates 2 minutes or less of Hamlet's time.
The best sections are where Steve Coogan (putting aside his questionable American accent) plays a failed actor in the middle of a nervous breakdown, with endless issues and immature reactions to problems leading to some great farce. It's a comedy about censorship, controversy and freedom of speech, but most importantly in parts it's really funny. If "Team America World Police" and "Jerry Springer The Opera" are things you like, put this on your list.
Then on the other hand it also tries too hard to be a 'feelgood' movie. It panders a little too much to its potential critics (ironic given what the story's supposed to be about) and stops short of causing any real offence the way something like a South Park movie does. It's an angry satire with its nails clipped. There are just a few too many slapstick pratfalls and not quite enough gags.
That said it's worth spending 80 minutes on just for some of the performances. Steve Coogan as always does a great job. Amy Poehler has a star turn as the letigious lawyer constantly looking to sue everyone and Catherine Keener is a great comedy alcoholic.
Not perfect, a little too soft in parts, but pretty funny.
This film totally passed me by - it didn't even register on my radar. But I've just finished watching it, literally about 2 minutes ago, and I enjoyed it so much that I felt compelled to fight its corner in these reviews.
It is a sorely, sorely underrated film. On the strengths of the reviews here I wouldn't normally have bothered watching it - just another straight to DVD also-ran. But seriously, and please take my word for this now, it IS A GOOD FILM. It's a satire; it is spoofing all of those saccharin-soaked inspirational mush-fests that Hollywood holds so dearly to its bosom, and it does it well. Don't expect a slapstick gag-fest, nor a Partridge-esque cringe marathon, nor a contemporary re-working of Shakespeare; Coogan is not the star of the show - the show is.
It IS clever, it IS witty, it IS sharp, but in a very subtle way. Just look at Elisabeth Shue's appearance - an actress who has a reputation for pursuing the role-less-travelled - she is playing herself, parodying herself, and sticking a satirical elbow in the belly of the beast that feeds her.
This is a woefully overlooked film and one that I would recommend whole-heartedly... plus, it's less that a fiver for crying out loud. What've you got to lose!?!
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