As everyone’s been buzzing about Tropic Thunder, we wanted to remind you that there’s another satire in theaters, one that might be just as funny and certainly every bit as bananas. In Hamlet 2, Steve Coogan (who also has a small but essential role in Tropic Thunder) stars as Dana Marschz, a failed actor turned high school drama instructor in Arizona. Dana may have accepted the fact that the scope of his talent spanned the length of an STD drug commercial, but his passion for “the theater” is endless, even though he has only two students to stage his adaptation of Erin Brockovich and, in general, is seen by most—including his wife, Brie (Catherine Keener)—as a kind of buffoon. And yet, Dana thinks of himself more as Mr. Holland from Mr. Holland’s Opus, an inspirational teacher capable of transferring his love of theater straight to his uninterested students. When the drama department is threatened to be shut down, he has to dig deep: he comes up with a sequel to Hamlet. The production is (natch) a musical, and involves such numbers as “Rape Me in the Face” and “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus.” (See clip above.) Unsurprisingly, the school wants to shut it down. Mr. Coogan is hysterically funny in this role. Though not all the jokes work—at times Hamlet 2 seems as disorganized as the play-within-the-movie itself—the sheer zaniness of the film keeps you engaged. Watch for Elisabeth Shue playing … Elisabeth Shue! And if you make it till the end, you’ll hear what has to be our new favorite last line of a movie ever.
This review first appeared in the August 18, 2008 edition of The New York Observer.