Film Reviews

Hamlet 2 Andrew Fleming

Rating - 5/10

Steve Coogan is doubtlessly one of the finest comic actors working today, notably with such British characters as "Alan Partridge", "Tony Wilson", and "Steve Coogan".  These characters are subtle and remarkable bundles of vanity, ineptitude, delusion and contempt.  What Coogan is not is a chameleon of the Peter Sellers variety, able to slip seamlessly between multiple accents and physicalities.  Coogan's best characters are bottomless pits of neuroses that happen to look and move not entirely unlike himself.

Coogan's attempts at American accents have always sounded particularly strange.  While this didn't matter in, and in fact often enhanced, his American characterizations at sketch length, Coogan's peculiar accent is an unfortunate distraction at feature length.  He stars in Hamlet 2 as a failed, talentless actor reduced to teaching high school drama in Tuscon, Arizona.  Despite the accent issue, which remains a flaw, Coogan does manage to score some points in fearlessly creating a ludicrous physicality and deep sadness for his lead buffoon.

Not only is Coogan's "Dana Marschz" a broader, and less funny, role than his more memorable characters, the nastiness that gave them such an edge is replaced here by a character who is, in all aspects, thoroughly pitiful.  Written by director Andrew Fleming and "South Park" scribe Pam Brady, Hamlet 2 fails its star by failing to give him any material beyond a cartoonish level of complexity to sink his teeth into, a problem that extends to the entire talented cast.  Catherine Keener, David Arquette and Amy Poehler all play types they can do better than anybody else, but the script adamantly refuses to make their stock types (boozy mean wife, the dolt she runs off with, and a pushy ACLU lawyer, respectively) distinctive in the least.

To pull off such a live-action cartoon, there is a very precise energy that must be supported by careful art direction, cinematography and editing.  Fleming limits his style to making everything garishly colorful, killing the tone with flat, static compositions and a downright sluggish pace (a fairly egregious flaw for a 92-minute film).  Hamlet 2 does muster up some energy for the last act depicting the debut performance of the titular sequel, a controversial and thoroughly moronic original work by Coogan's clown.  The charismatic cast sells purposefully tasteless numbers such as "Raped in the Mouth" and "Rock Me Sexy Jesus", displaying all the talent the movie spent the first hour or so squandering.

The taboo smashing, unfortunately, has limited effectiveness, as the tone of the entire film is something akin to a "South Park" episode without a point.  When every character speaks mostly in colorful vulgarities, they cease to have any comic effect.  There are no real stakes or developed contrast, so no sexual, religious, or societal violations have much of an impact.  Hamlet 2 is never as outrageous or transgressive as it thinks it is.  Generally, it is a fairly dull cartoon that would not pass muster for a spot on Adult Swim.