The Dark-Eyed Mistress of Sweet, Sweet Pain (jenni_the_odd) wrote,
The Dark-Eyed Mistress of Sweet, Sweet Pain

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Hamlet 2: Electric Boogaloo Review for You

So, Hamlet 2.
I saw the trailer for the movie, and was very excited. Failed actor-turned-drama-teacher writing a terrible, sacrilicious sequel to Hamlet? Sign me the hell up.
Then I watched the movie.
It's really, really sad when you watch a film and think "My god, I could have written better than this in high school."

This post contains spoilers for Hamlet 2. You have been warned. I see you scrollin'. You hatin'.

The biggest problem with Hamlet 2 is the wasted potential. There are nearly a dozen storylines woven into the plot that could have been expanded on, without adding any significant bulk to the film's running time. All it would take is more efficient use of dialogue and closer attention to how the scenes are timed:
  • Dana Marschz's (the main character, played by Steve Coogan) awkward, stumbling, eventually failing marriage. His relationship is painful to watch, with his wife never actually seeming to like him or giving any indication that she has ever liked him, much less loved him. His obliviousness could easily foreshadow a fascinating mental breakdown, but instead just makes him look goofy and stupid. When he does appear to break down, there's no subtlety to it, no poignant emotional unloading or crushing despair, just slapstick attempts at cheap laughs.
  • His apparently sordid past, which is only briefly mentioned and not even really brought up when his students slip him acid or he gets drunk after being sober for several years. If anything, his falling off the wagon is used as a way of indicating that hey, he's interesting and awesome now that he's no longer a recovered alcoholic! Rehab is for suckers!
  • His failed acting career, and (interestingly enough), his complete acknowledgement and acceptance that he is a terrible actor. Seeing someone try so hard while simultaneously admitting every so often that yeah, he sucks at this, makes you wonder why the hell he's doing this anyway. And we find out why, because he tells us. Doesn't really show us so much, but tells us. Sigh. He wants to inspire them, by the way. And apparently they learn that it doesn't matter how much talent you lack if you make up for it in enthusiasm.
  • His relationship with his father, which oddly manages to be a focal point of everything he does without the audience ever really learning anything about his father or their relationship, aside from apparent molestation -- which they choose to share via the opening song to the play, "Raped in the Face". Yeah. It sort of ties back to him using the phrase "I FEEL LIKE I'VE BEEN RAPED IN THE FACE!" to express dismay over a poor review in the high school newspaper in an earlier scene, but it was out of place and uncomfortable then, and doesn't get any better by the end of the movie when the song is presented.
  • The motley crew of mostly-Hispanic high schoolers who wind up in his class because there is nowhere else to go, leaving him struggling with the question of HOW DOES HE REEACH THESE KEEEEEDS. Racism is played for laughs, with his two (very white) teacher's pets who've stuck loyally by him and seem to comprise the entirety of the drama class until this point spewing racial epithets and expressing fear and confusion that Dana would opt to showcase a very talented newcomer (about whom he clearly has his own racist assumptions, which are at least exposed in no uncertain terms as being utterly ridiculous) instead of his previously favored though less-capable pupil.
  • Possibly a tie-in to the last one; the teacher's pet who clearly adores him and may or may not be gay/bi (and may or may not have a crush on him). His last-minute redemption startled me, as well -- if it's just hours before opening night and an actor who quit in a huff very early in production (to say nothing of the fact that he intentionally tried to sabotage the play by having it shut down, which Dana apparently figured out despite being horrifically dense or in denial regarding every other aspect of his life) shows up saying "I'm sorry, I'll do the part", I would think you'd tell them to go sit down; they haven't practiced or done costume fittings and they've been replaced by someone who actually did go to rehearsals and prepare for the role. This is something I've seen in multiple movies/TV shows that involve the production of plays, though, and it always bothers me. I know I wouldn't let them on stage.
  • Principal One-Note, as I call him, because his entire purpose is to sit around and oppose Dana at every turn. NO PLAY FOR YOU. He changes the locks in the gym, prohibits the production on school property, and goes so far as to nearly run Dana over with his giant truck and threaten to actually do so if he doesn't quit with this crazy play thing. And then at the end, he remarks to no one in particular that "I was molested as a child. Maybe that's why I'm so angry."
  • The turnaround from "Doomed Failboat of a play" to "Controversial, cutting-edge theatre", largely due to media attention. For some reason, Dana doesn't even know about it, despite his students reporting that they're getting calls (or they're checking his voicemail for him, I suppose) from the New York Times and all manner of local media outlets.
  • The lawyer that brings in the media attention, for that matter. This might be my personal "meh" feelings toward Amy Poehler, though. Maybe because I've only seen her make two faces, ever. I can't tell if she's just not naturally very expressive or if she's been Botoxed to hell and back, but watching her shout her lines back and forth with Steve Coogan in a manner suggesting that someone told her volume was more important than timing or emoting made me want my money back for a movie I didn't even pay for.

    In addition to the horrifically wasted potential, the writers suffer from a not-uncommon affliction that results in thinking that being offensive or saying uncomfortable things is the same as being edgy or funny. Jokes about childhood sexual abuse, anti-Semiticism, racism, etc... just aren't funny. At the very, very least, these weren't. It's one thing to make pointed, interesting, and potentially funny commentary on these subjects, another thing to just toss them at the audience and expect them to go "lol your trauma". Comedy isn't as simple as saying a word and getting a laugh; the entire basis of comedy is that you make your audience think. Even Larry the Cable Guy makes his audience consider, if briefly, the difference between situations he describes and how simple logic dictates the world should function. In that gulf, however wide or narrow, between a joke's presentation of What Is and What Ought to Be, lies The Funny. But just saying "my father raped me in the face" isn't funny, because the difference there between what is and what was isn't absurdity, it's tragedy.

    There are two possibilities for why Hamlet 2 turned out the way it did.
    One, the creative team has been working on it for some time. And they are really into it. So into it, in fact, that they forget that their audience doesn't know these characters like they do. They don't realize how little characterization and depth made it to the big screen, because they know the underlying stories that prop all these scenes up. The result was a patched-together movie that comes off like a high school English project with higher production values.
    Two, they are just bad writers, and need to be stopped before they write again.

    Hamlet 2 had the potential to be an utterly hilarious, heartwrenching, touching, inspiring, quirky, delightful film. Instead, it's barely passable as a waste of time. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is arguably a greater tragedy than the original Hamlet.
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