Hamlet 2 should have been such a better movie. Take a horrible actor turned horrible teacher, add a completely offensive and improbable sequel, toss in some funny cameos, and you should have a great comedy. Instead, Hamlet 2 veers off its comedic course.

Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan, most recently in Tropic Thunder) was a bad actor in several small commercials and cameo appearances who wound up teaching theater in a high school in Tuscon, Arizona. Dana's plays are all remakes of Hollywood movies, his theater class consists of two students, and he has to teach in the cafeteria. Things aren't better at home: His wife Brie (Catherine Keener) is as unsupportive as one can imagine, they had to take in a boarder named Gary (David Arquette) to make money, and Dana has to rollerblade everywhere. And Dana is driven to tears by the harsh reviews his plays get from the school's young newspaper critic.

Things change for Dana -- and not in a good way -- when his class is suddenly filled with Latino kids who act like gangbangers and who joined because all the other classes were filled. When Dana is told the theater department is being cut, he decides to save the program by making a sequel to Hamlet that incorporates a time machine, President Bush kissing Satan, Dana's numerous father issues, and a musical number called "Rock Me Sexy Jesus." Almost before you can blink the play is under protest, the students are finally inspired, ACLU lawyer Cricket Feldstein (Amy Poehler) wants the play to go on -- and Dana continues to show his near-total lack of intelligence or talent.

I wish the end result of Hamlet 2 was as insane as the description is. Alas, the play spends too much time in a pretty unamusing parody of the inspirational teacher reaching out to the students and too little time on the play within the movie. (Before the movie I wondered why there was no soundtrack for Hamlet 2. After seeing the movie, I know why: There are only two full original songs!) Steve Coogan is funny as the oblivious protagonist, but seeing him act stupid over and over gets repetitive very quickly. There are some very nice parts -- notably Catherine Keener as the wife who'd rather see her husband working at Rite-Aid, and Elisabeth Shue playing a version of herself who went into nursing because she got sick of Hollywood -- but the kids are pretty unamusing -- and they take up almost as much of the movie as Coogan. And the end of Hamlet 2 just fizzles out.

There are so many other movies that take on the elements of Hamlet 2 so much better, notably Waiting for Guffman for a horrible play and South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut for a demented musical. Hamlet 2 has some laughs, but it's very inconsistent and wears out its central concept pretty quickly. I hope there's not a Hamlet 3.

Overall Grade: C+

Reviewed by James Lynch

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