Hamlet 2
Directed by Andrew Fleming

Written by Andrew Fleming, Pam Brady

Starring Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Shue


Hamlet 2

"Hamlet 2" is one of those films that studios throw out to the theatres during the dog days of summer, when there aren't any blockbusters around. It's a terrible film, made worse by bad casting, a bad script and bad direction. Did I leave anything out?

It's the story of a failed actor (the British actor and comedian Steve Coogan), who after a short Hollywood career as a television pitchman is now reduced - in his mind, anyway - to teaching film at a high school in Tucson, Arizona. Oh, and did I say he's a recovering alcoholic, married to Catherine Keener, and how someone as good as she was roped into this film is beyond me; there must not be any roles around for talented women actors.

Anyway, the school is cutting out its art programs, so Steve (whose name in the film is the unpronounceable Dana Marschz, for no reason other than someone must have thought it was funny), decides to write his own play as a valedictory for his career at the school. It's a musical, with dancing, and he calls it "Hamlet 2." And while I frankly was unable to find anything in it that related to the first one, other than, I believe, a reconciliation with Hamlet's father, it does bear a strange resemblance to "Godspell," since it has Jesus in it, played by Dana himself,

The film is the story of how the students pull together in the face of opposition by the principal, and find a way to put on the show, which of course turns out to be such a hit that it ends up on Broadway. Oh, I forgot. There is a lovely performance in the film by the former actress Elizabeth Shue, who if you've been following the trade papers actually gave up acting and became a nurse. She plays herself and is the best thing in the film.

But Coogan, on the other hand, doesn't know how to stop doing shtick; he can't deliver a straight line without moving his body, grimacing at another actor, or doing some piece of business that he thinks will make the line better. And the script he's working with, by former South Park writer Pam Brady, shows none of the wit or irony that makes that show so good. And director Andrew Fleming, who shares writing credit with Brady, obviously had no control over Coogan, who apparently told Fleming, "Just follow me with your camera and don't worry about anyone else." That's what he does, and it's made what might have been a good idea into a disaster.