Elaine at the movies:

Elaine Blum

Now that we are over the Oscar hump, there appears to be a lull in theatrical releases. I took this opportunity to peruse the new release section at Blockbuster. And how could I not stop to look at the intriguing title of “Hamlet 2”?
Failed actor and drama teacher Dana Marschz, played by Steve Coogan, decides to save his school’s theater department by writing, directing and starring in this epic sequel. How, you might ask, does one write a sequel about a cast of characters who almost all die in the first play? Obviously you introduce a time machine in which Hamlet can go back and save all of his relations, as well as meet Jesus in the process. Easy solution – the play basically writes itself.
The DVD case boasts that the movie is “Dementedly Hilarious.” Translation: This movie is purposefully politically incorrect and distasteful. Be prepared with low expectations, but some of the comedy works well. The film is a mocking parody of high school musicals, teen conflicts over different racial backgrounds, exploring sexualities, and that ever-present fight for support for the arts.
Though the dialogue is not terribly original or entertaining, you know it is all an elaborate setup for this huge stage production. The longer I waited through the banal dialogue, the more I thought to myself: The payoff better be good. The problem is, with such a tedious buildup, the payoff has no hope of satisfying the audience. The eventual climax cannot compensate for the film’s diluted focus or predictable jokes that deserve only half a laugh.
Furthermore, the eventual payoff does not even receive enough emphasis. The stage production of “Hamlet 2” promises to be pleasantly ridiculous. Upon opening night, we see the curtain opening and hear the music cued. Then the film promptly cuts to a shot outside the theater with protestors and other mutinous onlookers. So much has built up to this play, yet we do not get to witness its long-coming introduction. Yes, reaction shots are good for enhancing the comedy of the situation. But I wanted to see the actual comedic, train-wreck production!
Whether or not it is worth the wait, the musical number “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” is a marvel that must be seen without much introduction. This scene is the reason one watches “Hamlet 2.” All of the tedious buildup is for this moment, the all-too-brief climax. If you know your high school musicals, you will be able to spot marked similarities. You will also enjoy an entertaining lesson about why Jesus rocks.
True, this movie is not the “Comedy Heaven” that the case jacket advertises. And what does it supposedly mean that it is from the producers of “Little Miss Sunshine”? If anything, this sets up a comparison in which “Hamlet 2” cannot hope to compete. It lacks both the originality and the purposeful storyline that makes “Little Miss Sunshine” endearing and memorable.
However, there are periodic comedic gems scattered throughout the film. Coogan is master of the melodramatic and has appropriately hilarious facial expressions to match. Amy Poehler makes an appearance in a characteristically spunky role. And yes, “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” is one musical number worth repeated viewing.