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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Movie Review: "Hamlet 2" (Electric Boogaloo)

Because I don't know what else to write about today, I'm giving you a movie review. Do you watch movies? I watch too many movies.


I've seen a couple of great comedies in the last month or so: Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express were both well-worth the price of admission.

I was in the mood for a little zane (not a reference to an interest in a tryst with a short dude named Zane), and Hamlet 2 opened yesterday and I was convinced by the trailer blurbs that it was a laugh riot.

I laughed right out loud during this film, on several occasions. Steve Coogan played his character, a drama teacher and washed-up Hollywood R-list actor, with the same kind of loveable obliviousness, enthusiasm, and self-centered-ness that Steve Carell brings to Michael Scott. His drama department is going to be shut down, and in classic high school movie/let's save the rec center fashion he pens his own play for his collection of misfit students to put on. The play is a redemption story in which Hamlet travels back in time to correct his mistakes, and he is helped along the way by the time-traveling swimmer-bod model Jesus. It offends both the literate parents of the students in the class, and the religious zealots of the town.

Amy Poehler, as an ACLU representative fighting to keep Coogan's play from being shut down by the school board, is perfectly self-important and perpetually prepared to be threatened by "the man".

And Catherine Keener is excellent as Coogan's alcoholic wife, desperate to be pregnant or drunk just so long as it's different.

But I ultimately went to see this movie because of the promise of zane and irreverent humour (the main musical number of the high school play Coogan's students put on is "Rock Me Sexy Jesus"). And while there were occasional wacky moments there were too many opportunities to just pause and take a breath.

It had all of the comedic beats of a dramedy, but without the drama filling in the spaces. These little peaks of whimsical, unexpected humour seemed to be just that: unexpected. Because after a couple of minutes of relative flatness those funny moments caught me by surprise.

It's weird to write that out, because I really can't fault Coogan or his colleagues: their performances were seamless. And the script was clever enough, I think, to stand on its own two ridiculous feet. But the intelligence and subversiveness of the script somehow wasn't conveyed. Not even with Coogan hamming it up in what I thought was a very appropriate way, and Elizabeth Shue (playing herself, but a version of herself that left Hollywood to become a nurse) playing the Abbot to Coogan's Costello.

I did laugh quite a bit. But not nearly as often as I should have for a movie with a premise as ridiculous as this one. And there weren't as many "oooh" moments of uncomfortable snickering as I thought there would be. And the play itself, the most dense concentration of those kinds of awkward laughter moments, takes up very little screen time overall. Most of the movie is not about Hamlet 2. It is a flat farce inspired by the great "inspirational teacher/community center director" films of the 80s and 90s.

I don't necessarily want my money back. But I feel as though I didn't spend it on something I chose myself. I feel like someone pulled a twenty out of my wallet without me knowing, gave it to some starving artist whose work wasn't really that compelling, and then told me about it later. And just as I wouldn't try to get my twenty back from the guy eating ramen with his paint-stained fingers, so too I'm not going to try to get my money back from the producers. But I'm not going to feel good about it.


Anonymous said...

I hear ya'- I was all set to write a review of the movie "The Other Boleyn Girl" the other day b/c I had nothing better to write about... then my 3 year old went all "As Good As It Gets" on me and saved me from myself.
Thanks for the review... I'll wait for it to come out on dvd.;)

for a different kind of girl said...

I've wanted this movie to be a laugh riot since I first heard of it, and a charming co-worker and I would pass each other in the aisles and spit out quotes we'd already heard. I may wait and drop a buck in the Red Box on this one, now.

Also? I believe I dared you on a topic, so this 'nothing to write about' business seems a wee bit like you're dodging bullets, sir. :)

Mrinal said...


We are pleased to announce the launch of 'Chakpak Picture Gallery Widgets - beta' . Movie Picture Gallery Widgets are small HTML scriptlets which you can copy to your blog and they show nifty picture gallery for the configured movie. They are a neat addition to your blog entry.

It looks like you are a movie buff, and frequently blog about movies. These Picture Gallery Widgets would be a great addition to the movie reviews that you write.

To start just go to Find the widget which you like. Click on Grab this widget and copy-paste the HTML scriptlet to your blog.

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Chakpak Team

T. said...

Good to know. And you need to do more movie reviews. They are well-written. You could even write for some entertainment blog.

Enjoying your writing lately,a lot.


Redneck Mommy said...

I never even heard of this movie until you mentioned it on twitter.

Apparently, I spend too much time in front of a computer and not enough time in front of a movie screen.

After reading this review though, I'm not thinking that's going to change any time soon.

Velma said...

I'm very happy with this review, since we had a movie night planned tonight and ended up bagging it completely. Labor Day weekend is apparently the slacker weekend for production companies, because there is an awful lot of crap out there right now.

This is one of those movies that I told my husband he'd be sorry after he missed the preview... and then the more reviews we read, the less appealing it became.

Backpacking Dad said...

browerfamilyof5: Or wait for it to play for free on tv.

FADKOG: I still like the song "Rock me sexy Jesus", but the version in the theater seemed to be about a minute too long.

mrinal: thanks, but I don't do these often.

t.: well, if you know someone who is hiring.....

redneck mommy: go see tropic thunder.

velma: yeah. I'm actually surprised at some of the people who were won over by this movie.

Whit said...

So it's a rental. Tropic Thunder was awesome though- I agree.

Whit said...

-and kudos on the electric boogaloo, I'm addicted to it myself.