KC and I went to a sneak preview of Hamlet 2 tonight. Normally, I would tell you what I thought, but … neither of us was really sure what we thought about it.
Starring Steve Coogan, the movie is about a wannabe actor/high school drama teacher who fights to stage his sequel to Hamlet, starring Jesus in a time machine. That piece is so bad it’s good, and the “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” number is a hummable hit. This film is like The Producers for a more religion-affected culture. Or maybe Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney put on a show, mixed with a Christopher Guest observational piece, only scripted.
There were some funny bits, but some of the other plot elements you could see coming from a mile away. For instance, while I love Catherine Keener, as soon as her character of his wife appeared, I knew where she was going to end up. The overall structure is creaky: artists fight to stage a play in the face of overwhelming obstacles and learn and bond while doing it. For every scene where expected cliches were shattered (disregarding stereotypes, the Hispanic lead’s family is quite well off and very educated), there were just as many where the conventional element played out as predicted. And some of the jokes were just dumb, like a running gag of bashing a silent student in the head.
The best part of the film was Elisabeth Shue playing herself. She’s charming. Also funny: naming a sheltered good girl student “Epiphany”. And the 12-year-old drama critic being the smartest one of them all.
All the student actors were very good, actually. But I saw more of Coogan (literally — there are at least three pants-down scenes) than I needed to. The director, Andrew Fleming, previously wrote and directed Dick, the Watergate comedy with Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams, which I liked. Maybe this one just misfired, or maybe it’ll grow on me. Check the trailer and see for yourself. (There’s also a red band — over 18 — version.)