New on DVD: Hamlet 2

New on DVD: Hamlet 2

If more high school plays were about sex and violence, maybe they’d sell out more shows. Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) is a failed actor and because those who can’t do teach, he heads the drama department at West Mesa High. Up to now, his class has consisted of two sheltered stereotypical thespians. With major cuts […]


If more high school plays were about sex and violence, maybe they’d sell out more shows.

Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) is a failed actor and because those who can’t do teach, he heads the drama department at West Mesa High. Up to now, his class has consisted of two sheltered stereotypical thespians. With major cuts to other arts programs, the class size grows vastly and now consists of mostly Latinos. However, rather than inspiring the students, the kids must encourage Dana as his life rapidly unravels. When drama suddenly gets the axe too, Dana makes one last effort to save his career by putting on a controversial original musical: Hamlet 2.

It becomes obvious fairly quickly this is a parody of the inspirational teacher movie, which usually involves a white educator changing the lives of inner city ethnic youths. This movie turns that formula on its head, with the white people actually being altered through relationships with the Latino kids. One is forced to face his sexuality, another overcomes her prejudice and Dana is simply inspired.

The trailer made this flick seem less thoughtful than it really is; aside from the sight gags, most of the film is quite pointed. Then again, nothing less should be expected from a South Park and Team America writer. In addition, in keeping with Shakespearean tradition, the narrative is separated into five acts – even though the divisions and titles are entirely senseless.

One of the real kicks is Elisabeth Shue who plays Elisabeth Shue. Jaded by Hollywood and the acting industry, she has become a nurse but is lured back to the spotlight by Dana’s enthusiasm. Shue’s embrace of the bitter self-portrait is admirable. Catherine Keener and David Arquette also have minimal roles but their imprint is equal to Coogan’s. And while none of the teens are under 20, they are all excellent in their roles.

In line with the movie, the bonus features are comical. The deleted scene fills in a hole in the narrative, while the audio commentary is an absurd chat between writer/director Andrew Fleming and co-writer Pam Brady. The “making of” featurette is similarly humoured. And since the lyrics are so catchy, the DVD provides a sing-along track for two of the songs.