Now it is pretty safe to say that life is somewhat strange for one time actor, Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), at the moment. Well, for a start, his drama class is comprised of Mexican gang-bangers and wannabe-thespians. Next, his wife, Brie (Catherine Keener), can not stand the sight of their lodger, Gary (David Arquette). Plus to top it all off, due to budgetary cuts the department that he's working in, Amateur Dramatic, is soon going to be closed down.
So what do you think Dana does about it then, huh? Have a nervous breakdown and meet one-time actress, Elisabeth Shue (Herself), who is now working as a nurse at a hospital? Yes. Dana does that. But in addition to this, he also comes up with an idea that may turn all of this badness into some goodness.
It's a new play he will write called - 'Hamlet 2'.
Yes. That is correct. I said 'Hamlet 2'. A redemptive all singing and all dancing sequel, which involves Hamlet and Jesus using a time machine to travel back into the past, to save the people who died in the earlier instalment of this tragic tale.
Original concept, don't you think? However, quite a number other people think don't think that this is the case, and they attempt to disrupt the development of his 'alternate production' in a number of different ways.
For example, one of the students drops out of this play due to the sexual content within. Then one of the parents prohibits their child from taking part in this production, due to the blasphemous nature of this piece. Oh! And lets not forget that the school principle prohibits this gala extravaganza from being made on school grounds either! Barring Dana and his class to work there any more.
Still, do you honestly think that any of this is going to stop Dana and the thespian gang bangers from making this theatrical story? Like Macbeth it is! And that is why what next transpires all kicks off when Brie leaves Dana for Gary. As the media has to be obeyed - protestors are unusually dismayed - a show comes off a bit gay - and it all comes to a head on Broadway.
I actually met Steve Coogan a couple of years ago. I bumped into him whilst I was developing a website for his masseur, Nari, in a smart part of
London. Steve seemed like a nice
chap on the surface. Placid. Normal.
And the complete and utter opposite to the types of characters that he plays on
screen. Moreover, I thought that he was a good sport for allow me to
regurgitate some of his own catch-phases back at him. He didn't mind at all. If
anything, he actually complemented me on my 'clownish antics', and told me that
I should actually think about becoming an actor.
Now, I have to confess, I didn't take any notice of Steve's comment at the time, and took his praise as 'something nice to say', just to get me to shut up. However, since then, I have learnt a lot about Steve and his ways, and have come to the realization that Steve is a very deep person, who can sense in others what they cannot sense in themselves.
Take 'Hamlet 2' for example. On the page I am sure it must have appeared like a very silly 'play it by numbers' type of a tale.
'A down on his luck actor becomes a teacher and teaches a class of 'unkempt youths' to make an 'alternate production' that the 'normal people' will not understand'.
Well, we have seen this type of thing before, right? 'High School High', 'Dangerous Minds', 'Sister Act 2', and many more I could also mention. Though, within this film, this 'play it by numbers type of a tale', has a message and a story behind it that is just great to follow.
Granted, not everything worked well within this piece. As the whole 'home life' sub-plot never felt integrated within the overall tale. Plus some of the 'external distractions' never really went anywhere either. Nonetheless, the rest of it was just great.
For example: (1) I laughed my ass off when it was first revealed that a small-kid was the theater-critique. It was just funny that Steve's bane was an angelic little sod who spoke with a lisp. I wanted this mite more in this piece. (2) The kids in the class were all great characters. They had a relaxed and non-blaze vibe about them, which inadvertently imbued their roles with a more congenial charm. (3) Although Steve's American accent did slip in places, by in large his character really did come across as a down on his luck old thespian. Like Michael Caine did in the film 'Noises Off'. (4) I liked the idea that one of the most tragic plays in history, Hamlet, was made into a song and dance sequel that was redemptive to the overall narrative. Also, I was very intrigued by the 'freedom of speech' argument that acted as a by product of the conceptual story-line. It's something that always needs to be re-enforced at times, correct?
Hey! Do you know what? While I am in a bullet-point mood, let's have some filmic-facts. (1) Due to the similarities between their careers, Steve Coogan was actually considered to play Peter Sellers in his bio-pic, 'The Life and Death of Peter Sellers'. (2) This film was bought by 'Focus Features' for $10 million as soon as it was screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. (3) William Shakespeare was born in April, 1564, and died May, 1616. It was believed that some of his works were plagiarised from other pieces of literature from that era. (3) Joseph Julian Soria is a designer, and was a part of the costume and wardrobe department in the film, 'Manje'. (4) In 1997 Catherine Keener was member of the dramatic jury at the Sundance Film Festival. (5) 'Hamlets' full title is 'The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark', and was received with mixed response by the restoration critiques. Stating that it was 'primitive' and 'disapproved of its lack of unity and decorum'. (6) Included in the DVD for this film is a 'sing-along' audio track. (7) Skylar Astin worked in a natural food store called 'Back to Earth' prior to becoming an actor. (8) Phoebe Strole is 5' 4" in height. (9) Elisabeth Shue began her career on television as 'The Burger King Commercial Girl'. (10) David Arquette attended The Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies in
Overall 'Hamlet 2' is a really great film to watch. It's funny. It tells a tale. It's jam packed full of character. It's redemptive in tone. Plus you even get to hear such songs as...
God bless em.
THE RATING: A-