The colorful, fascinating and confusing trailer for Hamlet 2 made me want to watch it in theaters without any outside recommendations. The trailer raised expectations of a hilarious sequel to Hamlet featuring a song called “Rock Me Sexy Jesus,” but after watching the film I was disappointed to discover that this Hamlet sequel itself is a play within a movie, featured in only ten minutes of the film. The rest of the time the production of the play “Hamlet 2,” is the movie’s main focus.
The film opens with a stream of commercials featuring poor acting by one Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan, Tropic Thunder, A Night at the Museum). Marschz lives with his alcoholic wife (Catherine Keener, Death to Smoochie, The 40 Year Old Virgin) and their renter, Gary (David Arquette, Scream) while he teaches drama for transportation money, which he saves by rollerblading to work at a poorly funded high school in Tuscan, Ariz.
Calling Marschz unsuccessful is an understatement – his plays are poorly attended (and all based on hit films, such as Erin Brockovich); he has a nemesis in the form of a small high school play reviewer; there’s trouble stirring with his wife at home; he receives a large and at first entirely disinterested class that he desperately wants to inspire; and the school board has just announced that they are eliminating the drama department.
In order to rescue his department, Marschz decides that he needs to produce a play that will give the drama department a good name. “Hamlet 2” is supposed to be an expression of his hate towards and forgiveness of his father, but what comes out is Satan French-kissing George Bush.
The film repeatedly wrestled with important issues and current events in its plot, such as class, race, free speech, self-hate and the expression of art, but never explored them in depth or for any large amount of time. For example, Marschz’s regular students believe the new students to be part of a gang because they are Hispanic. Even Marschz is guilty of believing such stereotypes as he assumes one student is a thug that lives on the street, while he is really a model student with wealthy parents and an early acceptance to Brown.
More substantive adversity is faced by other characters in the movie as well, such as one student who struggles with his realization of his homosexuality and Marschz’s fight for the right to express himself. Many relevant issues are mentioned throughout Hamlet 2, but are done so in passing and thus most can be easily overlooked or forgotten. The heart of the film is instead focused on uninspired jokes and sporadic laughs. Based on the trailer, I expected it to be more groundbreaking in its vulgarity, but overall I was left disappointed.