By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
Late in the movie, the filmmaker suggests that this child's dream is, in fact, a childhood dream. In a haunting bit of ancient footage, the actual little Azazel is seated at the same round wooden table that functions as the loft's fulcrum, head down, asleep beside an unfinished plate of spaghetti.
Like Momma's Man, Hamlet 2 concerns a childish man's struggle with adult responsibility and, as its title suggests, also a son's relation to his father. Not nearly as uproarious as it should be, Andrew Fleming's latest high-school farce premiered at the same Sundance Film Festival where Momma's Man made its debut and, after a spirited bidding war, was sold for a cool $10 million.
The movie, which Fleming wrote with South Park veteran Pam Brady, is a sort of backstage Bad News Bears in which a beleaguered high-school drama teacher (Steve Coogan) attempts to save his job by staging a musical sequel to the most famous play in the English language. (To add to the fun, his class is heavily salted with lovable, mainly Latino gangbangers.) One of the funniest men in England, Coogan here plays American—which is to say, he projects his character as a sincere idiot. Coogan will do anything for a laugh, and given how little he has to work with, he must. It's impressive that he can fill the screen, though he's still regularly upstaged by Catherine Keener in her specialty role as castrating spouse, never more inspired than when playing a scene with a margarita as big as a birdbath.
Perhaps because it deals with the anxiety of influence, Hamlet 2 is surprisingly sympathetic to writers: "Oh my God—writing is so hard!" Coogan exclaims at the word processor. He accepts advice from a 12-year-old drama critic and, in the grand finale, is saved by the national press, which rallies around the production as a free-speech issue. Not exactly Springtime for Hitler, the climactic musical features a "Raped in the Face" number and a familiar-seeming "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" routine in which a beatific, be-fright-wigged Coogan descends from the ceiling to intone: "Father, I forgive you." We know that the now-liberated actor is actually talking about his earthly dad. The show ends with Coogan still suspended in the air—not unlike the movie, which, not quite a parody, is something like a failed metaphor for itself.
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