Sexy Jesus leads the troupe in Hamlet 2
If you’ve heard anything about Hamlet 2, it’s probably that the film was co-written by South Park alum Pam Brady. Nearly every print ad, billboard, trailer, and commercial spot makes mention of the film being “From the co-writer of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and Team America: World Police“. While some of the Jesus jokes and musical numbers might be reminiscent of everyone’s favorite foul-mouthed fourth graders, the film actually has little in common with South Park.
Hamlet 2 is the story of Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), a failed-actor turned high school drama teacher in Tuscon who suddenly finds himself leading a class of “at-risk” students instead of his usual two drama geeks. In an effort to generate some enthusiasm for his productions and avoid losing his job, Marschz creates a sequel to Shakespeare’s classic. Of course, the school and the town are up in arms when they hear that he’s decided to throw in characters like Einstein and Hillary Clinton or included musical numbers like “Rock Me Sexy Jesus”. Soon, the play becomes the focus of a First Amendment battle and Marschz finds some unexpected support from his favorite acturess (Elizabeth Shue playing herself) and ACLU attorney Cricket Feldstein (Amy Poehler).
While Coogan and the rest of the cast put in some great performances, the film seems to struggle a bit with pace. After spending the entire movie hearing people talk about Marschz’s crazy ideas for the play, you can’t help but wish you got more of the production itself.
The films tries to navigate the balance between physical gags and quirky humor and there are a few missteps with tone. The comedy classic Waiting for Guffman gave us fantastic quirky characters and dialogue without the need for physical comedy, but Hamlet 2 works hard to deliver a mix of both. Sure, it’s funny when a student is accidentally hit in the head with a trashcan, but you can’t help but feel like there could have been a funnier avenue than this physical joke.
Still, there are some very funny moments in the film. Poehler, in particular, is outstanding and delivers dialogue with the fantastic smart-ass demeanor that she does so well. Also, both Phoebe Strole and Skylar Astin (both from Broadway’s Spring Awakening) are great as over-enthusiastic drama nerds, and Joseph Julian Soria and Melonie Diaz give great performances as the stand-outs in Marschz’s group of transfer students.
In Brady’s previous feature, Hot Rod, the comedy seemed to come from the performances by the actors. With a cast including Andy Smaberg and Jorma Taccone from The Lonely Island or Danny McBride and Bill Hader (most recently in Pineapple Express) the timing and delivery was outstanding. While Hamlet 2 isn’t quite up to Hot Rod, it still provides more than a few laughs.