Hamlet 2 Review by James Berardinelli of ReelViews

Hamlet 2 (a great title) does not represent the first time in recent years that something unconventional has been done to one of the Bard's classics. (Although, to be sure, no one has been as audacious as to develop a musical sequel to a play.) Scotland, PA re-imagined Macbeth as a modern-day comedy. In A Midwinter's Tale, Kenneth Branagh developed a comedy centered on an amateur production of Hamlet. Years later, Branagh elected to adapt Love's Labour's Lost as a musical, using established standards. Aspects of all these productions can be found in Hamlet 2, not to mention swatches of Mel Brooks' The Producers and Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman. Despite the richness of the premise for comic invention, however, Hamlet 2 remains a rather mediocre experience, offering sporadic laughs but never achieving the level of consistent humor necessary to make this memorable.

Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) is a drama teacher at a Tucson high school. Outside of a couple of overeager teacher's pets, his class is filled with kids who would rather be anywhere except in school. Taking his cues from Dangerous Minds, Mr. Holland's Opus, and Dead Poets Society, Dana decides to change the lives of his students. To accomplish this, he casts them in a play of his own devising: Hamlet 2, the musical "sequel" to Shakespeare's masterpiece. For the lead, he chooses the most dangerous of his students, Octavio (Joseph Julian Soria), who is also the most talented. However, as word gets out about what he's doing, the principal decides to step in and put an end to the production. Enter Cricket Feldstein (Amy Poehler), an ACLU lawyer who takes up Dana's cause. Meanwhile, at home, the teacher is involved in a little domestic drama: his wife, Brie (Catherine Keener), is tired of her inability to conceive and drags Dana to a fertility clinic.

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Nov 12, 2015 6:29PM EST

If you want to see a better film about one of Shakespeare's classics, I would pick up Never Say Macbeth when it comes out on DVD August 26th. (www.neversaymacbeth.com) It's smartly written. The laughs build through the movie and even the closing credits are funny. The closing credits for Hamlet 2 were a little boring. I expected something better.

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