With something to offend everyone and jabs thrown at every “high school teacher” film ever made, Hamlet 2 is absolutely hilarious.
Note: minor spoilers
Hamlet 2 follows the story of an eccentric (and halfway insane) high school drama teacher whose department is about to be cut. He decides to write his magnum opus in the hopes of saving his job, and what he comes up with is one of the most offensive yet well thought plays in history. Incorporating his own personal demons and insecurities, he manages to write a sequel to Hamlet in which time travel is used in the hopes of changing the ending of the original play. The way he manages this is atrocious on the surface, but the more you pay attention to his reasons the more apparent his genius becomes. His own motivations shift as the film continues, but he always keeps on working towards his goals.
The most surprising thing about this film is the extent with which it parodies films like Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, Dead Poets Society, etc without directly ripping them off. From a class filled with intelligent trouble makers, to extensive challenges in his personal life, to the struggle he wages merely to maintain his sanity, every important facet of the classic high school teacher story is present here. Steve Coogan appears as the drama teacher in one of his most convincing roles ever. In fact, the drama teacher character in general is incredibly convincing. Coogan has to portray a bad actor attempting to redeem himself…ironically, it requires a great actor to purposely portray a bad one. I suppose this is similar to needing to be able to sing well in order to consistently impersonate a bad singer, since you would have to always hit off-key notes. In this same way, Coogan had to appear naturally yet stiffly, something that couldn’t have been easy for him. The rest of the cast is superb as well, and the film is chock full of big names and fantastic actors.
From a cinematography standpoint, this film is fairly basic. There are a couple of unique and creative camera angles, but for the most part things remain static. Once the play scene ramps up towards the end though, the overal presentation goes from merely OK to really creative. The script is very well written, and conversations flow naturally. I’m not sure if any of this film was improvised, but a lot of it had the organic feeling and flow that can only come about as a result of improvisation. The humor transcends race and age, allowing everyone to get in a good laugh. It is imperative that you view this film with your guard completely down, because EVERYONE is made fun of: different religions, political groups/beliefs, artistic opinions and preferences…you name it, just about anyone can find something offensive in this film.
As with most movies of this type, some suspension of reality is required. People get away with certain things that would never be possible in real life, although this may have been intentional as a way of showing just how ridiculous the whole thing is. The play itself is shown at the end, and I must say that its got some really catchy tunes. The whole presentation of the play in general is great, but the music really steals the show. Considering the creativity that the drama teacher character puts into this play, it makes me wonder why he failed as a playwrite and an actor before he completed composing Hamlet 2. It’s possible that he needed his life to fall apart before he could truly portray the emotion he wanted, but other than that I see no reason why he would have failed professionally. Again, Coogan portrays this paradox believably and naturally.
To sum it up, Hamlet 2 is an absolutely hilarious movie made even better if you saw movies like Stand and Deliver or Dead Poets Society when you were growing up. Excellent writing, excellent acting, and a ton of creativity appears in every scene. Do yourself a favor and watch this movie with as many people as you can; you’ll be singing the songs long after the credits roll.