(H)ath Not An Audience Eyes?

When a drama is bad, it's unsettling enough. But is there anything more tortuous than a bad comedy? I don't know if I'm alone in feeling this way, but I'd rather watch five disappointing "regular" movies than one underwhelming farce. This is usually where word-of-mouth is an enormous help. There are plenty of movies that looked good on paper, but once they were met with a collective shrug (or worse), I could be relatively confident that I should take a pass.

There is no such luxury when it comes to the ABC project, though! This experience is all about diving in, and hoping that I discover some hidden gems. Hamlet 2 (2008) looked like it might have some promise in that department. The premise of a disgraced drama teacher putting on his own wackadoo high school play is perfect. Steve Coogan plays that teacher, who is told that due to funding cuts, he'll be losing his job at the end of the year. He's been producing awful film-to-stage adaptations, and between the end of his job on the horizon and a newly-populated-with-underpriveleged-Latino-students-for-no-reason class, he decides there couldn't be a better time to put on an original work. "Hamlet 2" will be a musical, time-travel extravaganza, and will right all the depressing wrongs of the original play (and will help him work out his daddy issues in the meantime). Again, sounds fun, right?

It just doesn't work. There are flashes of fun here and there, but the majority of the movie is just Coogan behaving like an oaf, with no real wit or bite to the satire. The community gets whipped up into a frenzy of religious protestors and free speech advocates, but it's all the same jokes you've heard before. Catherine Keener is relegated to another thankless, pointless role as the shrewish wife. There is one bright spot in Elisabeth Shue, who plays herself (but an Elisabeth Shue who gave up acting to become a fertility clinic nurse in Tuscon, Arizona, which...what?).

It's not a terrible movie by any stretch. It's just lackluster. But when it comes to lackluster comedy, you'll find yourself pining for a good ol' fashioned tragedy in a hurry.

Hamlet 2: C+


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