Hamlet 2 (2008)

Rated R. Our ratings: V- 2; L- 7; S/N-4. Running time: 1 hour 34 min.

The human spirit will endure sickness;
but a broken spirit—who can bear?
An intelligent mind acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
Proverbs 18:14-15

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Students and teacher put on a musical sequel to Hamlet.

2008 Focus Features

If you liked Christopher Guest’s spoof of amateur theatrics Waiting for Guffman, then you might also en joy director/co-writer Andrew Fleming’s send-up of high school drama, though you will have to endure a lot more vulgarity. Steve Coogan’s high school drama teacher Dana Marschz was such a bad actor that he sank to teaching a Tucson high school drama class that most students shun. He is no more successful as a director, his plays cannot get good reviews even from pint-sized critic Noah Sapperstein (Shea Pepe), the freshman who writes for the school newspaper. His scornful review of Dana’s latest effort Erin Brocovich spares neither the director nor the actors. When Dana confronts him, Noah tells him that he should stop trying to produce plays based on movies and do something original. Dana gets no respect from anyone else either, but how can he when he travels about town on roller skates, constantly falling down?

Dana barely can communicate with the new enrollees in his course, most of them being Latinos who are there only to kill time while in school. He has to yell obscenities and kick a waste can at them before they give him their attention. Only two stage struck seniors really believe in what he is doing. Certainly Principal Rocker (Marshall Bell) does not, he only too gladly announcing to Dana that the school board is eliminating drama and the arts from the curriculum because of financial short-falls. Dana is also having troubles at home, his neglected wife Brie (Catherine Keener) becoming attracted to Gary (David Arquette), the slacker who has been boarding with them. Husband and wife have been seeing a doctor about their inability to conceive a child, so when it turns out that Dana has been injecting “blank bullets,” she turns elsewhere.

Taking his critic’s advice, Dana writes a sequel to Hamlet, a good trick, as it is pointed out that almost all of the main characters wound up dead in the original. Dana’s device is a time machine, built by students in shop class, which a student uses to go back into Hamlet’s time and help him prevent the various deaths. Somehow Jesus Christ becomes a central character also, as well as Einstein and others.

Obstacles pile up atop one another. The class had been meeting in the dining hall, is then shunted to the gym while the girls’ volley ball team is in practice, and finally ejected entirely when Principal Rocker orders the play shut down. Not to worry, one of the students—by now all of the students becoming enthusiastic about the crazy play—securing an industrial shed once used by the railroad. What a performing place! However the parents of his lead actor withdraw their son from what they consider a vulgar travesty of Shakespeare (they’re right); Rocker secures a court order forbidding the opening of the play (which brings in; and sinister persons try to run Dana down with their truck. How the students bond with him and revive his spirit at a low point follows the good ole tradition of inspiring-teacher genre, but never filled with such gross vulgarity. Almost 40 years ago the musical Jesus Christ: Super Star created a storm of protest, so you can imagine how Dana’s play is received by the opening night audience, with the Tucson’s Gay Men’s Chorus singing “Rock Me, Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” as Dana portrays Christ cavorting on stage with the student Hamlet cast. Lots of funny lines and scenes (mention should be made that Elizabeth Shue plays herself as a nurse because she found that profession more rewarding than acting, and then is invited to speak to his class), but too bad the vulgarity will put off most church folk. Hard to believe that Andrew Fleming directed and wrote the script for the family film Nancy Drew!