Andrew Fleming’s “Hamlet 2” is probably everything “High School High” wanted to be and couldn’t. It’s a raucous comedy that also doubles as an inspirational teacher vs. underprivileged kids flick sans any of the politics and searing melodrama. “Hamlet 2” is probably one of the funniest movies I’ve seen not associated with Judd Apatow and that’s thanks in whole to Steve Coogan who is absolutely hysterical as failed actor Dana, a man who has resorted to making school productions of popular Hollywood films and must find the right play to rejuvenate the arts program when he receives word all arts are being cut from the school he attends.
His idea is one so utterly offensive and yet so damn fascinating that he draws a media circus that engulfs his actual intent with a sequel to Shakespeare’s play that he proclaims won’t be as depressing as the former. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, “Hamlet 2” sets out to be nothing more than a comedy of pure slapstick with a hint of intellect and this results in hilarity that resulted in strong laughter from yours truly. Coogan is magnificent as the tragically inept drama teacher who takes pride in every misstep in the story from starring in horrible commercials to adapting and even cribbing from every successful Hollywood blockbuster he can muster up.
Coogan known for his impressions alongside his long comedic career makes the character of Dana such a loser but one we want to root for especially when he makes bonehead moves like inadvertently inflicting physical punishment on a student to riding to work on roller skates he can barely balance on. The ensemble works to a great degree as Catherine Keener is painful as Dana’s long suffering wife, Amy Poehler is equally good as a representative of the ACLU prepared to die for “Hamlet 2,” and a very memorable walk on by Elisabeth Shue who plays herself as a bitter retiree from Hollywood who endures Dana’s rabid fanaticism.
The build up to the finale is not disappointing as “Hamlet 2” brings together the outcasts and drama students in one of the most unusual spectacles you’ll lay witness to. From time machines, lightsaber battles, Sexy Jesus, and musical numbers, it’s all one big exaggerated take on the high school production and damn it is it ever one hell of a pay off. There’s no doubt, I loved “Hamlet 2.” I haven’t laughed so hard in years. Coogan is pure brilliance. For once high expectations pays off as “Hamlet 2” proves to be a hilarious satire with a great comedy ensemble, a top notch script, and a hell of a leading man with Coogan. Highly suggested for anyone interested in offensive comedy.