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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Andrew Fleming
Cast:
Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, David Arquette, Elisabeth Shue, Amy Poehler, Joseph Julian Soria, Skylar Astin, Phoebe Strole, Melonie Diaz, Arnie Pantoja
Writing Credits:
Pam Brady, Andrew Fleming

Tagline:
One high school drama teacher is about to make a huge number 2.

Synopsis:
When his school's theater department is threatened to be cut, failed actor-turned-high school drama teacher Dana Marschz writes a play that he hopes will solve everything: a sequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Now, staging one of the most politically incorrect musical-theater extravaganzas ever seen, Dana and his class will put it all on the line for one controversial, conflicted night of hilarity!

Box Office:
Budget
$9 million.
Opening Weekend
$2.126 million on 1597 screens.
Domestic Gross
$4.881 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/21/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Andrew Fleming and Co-Writer Pam Brady
• Deleted Scene
• “Making Number 2” Featurette
• “Oscar Winner Vs. High School Drama Class” Featurette
• “Sing Along with Hamlet 2
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Hamlet 2 (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 29, 2008)

For a wacky piece of satire, we go to 2008’s Hamlet 2. In this flick, we meet failed actor Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan). After a career filled with bad commercials and bit parts, he ends up as the drama teacher at Arizona’s West Mesa High School.

Despite this lowered profile, Dana remains full of artistic ambition; he stages adaptations of Hollywood dramas like Erin Brockovich. After yet another scathing review from the school’s drama critic, he decides to go a more creative route and make an original production.

While he pursues that, his drama class expands due to an influx of minority students when the school closes other electives. Since these kids resist the shift, Dana takes this as a challenge to inspire and move them. Another snag hits Dana when the school district cancels the drama program. He gets to finish the term and then he’s gone.

With limited time and resources – as well as a bad relationship with his caustic wife Brie (Catherine Keener) – Dana finds himself despondent. However, he takes this downturn and makes an opportunity out of it with his proposed production of Hamlet 2. We follow his quest to stage the controversial musical with all its attendant complications.

With the movie’s emphasis on bad musical theater, it becomes easy to compare Hamlet 2 to flicks like The Producers and Waiting for Guffman. Those similarities do exist, mainly when we see the segments of Dana’s big musical version of Hamlet 2. However, a lot of the flick falls into the “inspirational teacher” vein ala Dangerous Minds and the like. Hamlet 2 casts a broad net, and it takes on plenty of elements as inspiration.

Does it successfully tie all these components together? Yeah, sometimes, but not with much consistency. Hamlet 2 is the kind of movie that sounds awfully good on paper, and it can cobble together enough funny material to fill a trailer.

However, it can’t quite keep our interest through a full movie, even one that only runs 92 minutes. Hamlet 2 works better as a concept than as a film. In many ways, it reminds me a lot of Tropic Thunder, another film in which Coogan appeared, albeit in a much smaller role. Both flicks take broad satirical potshots, and both have their moments.

Unfortunately, neither can produce enough quality segments to consistently satisfy. Of the two, Thunder works better, probably because it doesn’t focus as much on one character. It also feels tighter; even though Hamlet 2 concentrates on Dana’s ups and downs, it lacks an even flow. The story jumps around from one conflict to another without much logic.

After a while, it becomes apparent that the movie throws out all these complications just because it doesn’t know where else to go. The content of the film’s third act never seems in doubt: we know the actual staging of the Hamlet 2 musical will dominate that section. The filmmakers just don’t have a good idea how to spend the time between the musical’s gestation and its execution.

This means the first act works pretty well as we get to know Dana and the students, but the movie sags badly in its second act. The flick pours on all sorts of extraneous snags, few of which seem very useful. One or two would be fine, but it jumps all over the place and becomes barely coherent.

Because of this, the impact of the musical decreases – not that I’m sure it’d be all that funny anyway. We’ve seen so much of this sort of “so bad it’s good” satire that there’s not much new Hamlet 2 can bring to the table. Co-writer Pam Brady comes from the world of South Park, and that franchise does a much better job with this kind of parody. Frankly, the silliness that comes from Dana’s Hamlet 2 appears fairly flat; “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” just isn’t particularly funny or clever.

At least Hamlet 2 comes with a good cast. In the film’s one truly inspired choice, it presents Elisabeth Shue as herself. Here we learn that she left show business to become a nurse at a fertility clinic. Her scenes live up to the film’s potential and easily offer its most clever and amusing moments.

As for the rest, Hamlet 2 scores the occasional laugh, but I can’t help but view it as a severe disappointment. I wanted to like it and found sporadic entertainment. Unfortunately, the whole feels like less than the sum of its parts, and those parts don’t add up to much anyway.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

Hamlet 2 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Expect a watchable but inconsistent transfer.

For the most part, sharpness was fine. Some mild edge enhancement showed up, and that left wide shots as a bit less defined than I’d like. Still, the majority of the movie demonstrated acceptable to good delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but a few source defects showed up along the way. This meant a smattering of small specks.

Colors looked good. The desert setting meant a fairly sandy palette, but the disc translated the hues in a positive manner. The scenes with brighter tones demonstrated nice clarity. Blacks were a bit muddy, and shadows seemed slightly opaque. Overall, this was a decent presentation, but a few too many drab scenes materialized to leave this as anything worth more than a “B-“.

Don’t expect a whole lot from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Hamlet 2. Most of the chatty movie manifested a limited soundscape, though a few scenes opened up as the flick progressed. The parts of the musical broadened pretty well, and we also got some surround usage from a thunderstorm and some environmental elements. None of these created a particularly interesting soundfield, but the material made sense for the story.

Across the board, audio quality was fine. Speech seemed acceptably natural and concise, with no edginess or other concerns. Music seemed fairly full, while effects demonstrated good clarity and range. Of course, they did little to tax my system, but they replicated the audio well. While the track was too subdued to impress, I thought it was perfectly acceptable.

When we move to the disc’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director/co-writer Andrew Fleming and co-writer Pam Brady. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast and performances, sets and locations, a few production design and editing notes, some story issues, and general movie-making topics.

While the synopsis above includes a good mix of subjects, in reality, Fleming and Brady usually just chitchat in a semi-comedic way. Honestly, this often feels like a breakfast conversation between a married couple. “Good eggs today, honey.” “Thanks – I added paprika!” “Tastes good!” The track seems pretty banal and often consists of little more than praise. A few decent tidbits emerge, and it’s not an unpleasant affair, but it does seem tedious much of the time.

One Deleted Scene lasts three minutes. It shows more of the tension in Dana’s home life. It also sets up later events in his relationship with his wife. It actually would’ve made sense in the final cut, as it allows those developments to seem more logical; the actions in the released version come out of nowhere.

Next we get a 15-minute and 35-second featurette called Making Number 2. It provides notes from Fleming, Brady, producers Aaron Ryder and Eric Eisner, and actors Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, David Arquette, Joseph Julian Soria, Melonie Diaz, Skylar Astin, Phoebe Strole, and Michael Esparza. The show looks at he project’s origins and development, cast, characters and performances, aspects of the script and story, the musical within the movie, sets and locations, and the movie’s tone.

Don’t expect much more than the average promotional featurette here. While the commentary didn’t include a ton of information, it gives us a lot more than we get from “Making”. You’ll find a few mildly funny bits from Coogan in character but not much else.

Something unusual arrives via. Oscar Winner Vs. High School Drama Class. In this one-minute and 10-second clip, we compare the movie’s stage performance of Erin Brockovich with the actual film. It’s a fun extra.

Sing Along with Hamlet 2 covers two songs: “Raped in the Face” and “Rock Me Sexy Jesus”. This feature shows the scenes from the movie and includes subtitles with the tunes’ lyrics. “Sing Along” uses Coogan-portrayed Einstein and Jesus heads to point out the appropriate words. That makes it wackier, but it’s not especially interesting otherwise.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Burn After Reading, The Office, Slap Shot 3: The Junior League, Blu-Ray Disc, Death Race and Milk. No trailer for Hamlet 2 appears here.

Broad, cartoony and only occasionally funny, Hamlet 2 offers an exercise in intermittent cleverness. Unfortunately, we find such erratic entertainment that the whole package disappoints. It probably would work better as a skit or a short program, as it just can’t fill 92 minutes with quality material. The DVD provides decent picture and audio as well as mediocre extras. This isn’t a bad movie or release, but it doesn’t do much for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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