Arts & Life, Movies

Navigating Netflix: Hamlet 2

Hollywood has become the magical land of adaptations, gritty reboots and endless sequels, an unfortunately profitable business model. There are many lament the void of original ideas that comes out of Tinseltown. If you encounter one such person never hesitate to point out to those naysayers that despite the fact that it grew to be a definitive cult classic, Donnie Darko is one of the most original and inventive films ever made as well as being a box office flop when released. It took years to achieve that cult classic status.

For all the complaining about unoriginal content, the most original content often slips through the cracks with big audiences.

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Outside of comic books, one of the biggest content farms for adaptations for the silver screen is the work of the immortal bard, William Shakespeare. His plays have been modified, adapted and repurposed more times than possibly anyone else’s work. And not always for the better. Mel Gibson, we’re looking at you.

Hamlet 2 is one of the more interesting uses of Shakespeare’s work, or misuses depending on your point of view. Dana Marschz is failed actor on the verge of failing as a high school drama teacher in Tuscon, Arizona. In a last ditch attempt to save his program, he creates a sequel to one of Shakespeare’s most famous works, Hamlet. To make the sequel work, time travel and Jesus Christ are introduced amongst the updated characters from the classic play.

The story of the film itself has been done before with the high school teacher trying to save his program, his students and himself in one fell swoop. It’s the subject matter of the most commonplace films set in schools, comedies or dramas. But it’s the play with in the movie like Hamlet itself that tells the true story. Hamlet 2 as a stage play is brilliantly offensive to the source material. The idea of the main characters using time travel to fix their problems is a stroke of genius, the perfect mundane plot device appropriated from modern storytelling and used in a ridiculous fashion. Adding Jesus Christ to the cast on his own journey that parallels Hamlet’s just takes the craziness up another five notches.

And when you have a song and dance number in a play called “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” you know you have a winner.

For all the good and bad ridiculousness of the plot, Hamlet 2 is worth checking out for the cast. Catherine Keener, David Arquette and Amy Poehler are all hilarious in their own ways but it’s Steve Coogan in the role of Dana Marschz that truly commands this story. Dana is insane, desperate and on the brink of disaster throughout the entire movie. Coogan makes the character both relatable and detestable at the same time but always funny, even at his lowest points. That’s a feat both impressive and underestimated.

There are certainly aspects of Hamlet 2 that have been done before but it’s Coogan’s Marschz and the absurd spectacle he puts together that make the experience an enjoyable one. His performance takes the mundane and absurd aspects of this film and somehow makes them come together.