Hamlet 2 is about Dana Marschz (pronounced Mars-z-ch-s) who has to save the drama class from budget cuts by putting on an elaborate play to raise money. Right away, there's a flaw in this because, as everyone knows, the drama department is the first of the arts to get cut, but in the movie it's the last. So Dana, an actor-turned-drama teacher who normally adapts a successful Hollywood movie into a play (you see Erin Brokovich performed at the beginning), decides to write an original work for the end of the semester. He settles on Hamlet 2, despite everyone being dead at the end of the first one, and as the movie develops so does his motivation. He wrote Hamlet 2 as way of forgiving his father. Get it? Jesus and Hamlet are two guys who need to forgive, and Dana plays the rib-tank-and-jeans-wearing Jesus.
The beginning of the movie starts off parodying the drama class stereotype, which includes a repressive homosexual male and an obnoxious do-gooder, who are actually the only two students in the class. With the budget cuts, the Latino population from other arts programs filter into the drama class, but Dead Poet's Society this is not. This movie is not about Dana reforming these kids or having any type of profound influence on their lives. In fact, the movie parodies this too. On the second day of this integration, Dana comes in and says, "I saw a wonderful movie last night. Dangerous Minds. So now I know all about you." And he says in such an obliviously ignorant way the students can't help but laugh at him. He's a joke. Near the end, Dana even makes the revelation, "My life is a parody of a tragedy! My wife left me. The kid's not mine." Hysterical stuff.
So while the students take a backseat to Coogan, the supporting adult players also get their time to shine. Catherine Keener, who knew you were so funny? Early on, at dinner, she has a full two minutes where it's just her talking, and everything she says will rip your sides with laughter. She knows when to pause and when to go for the kill. Why hasn't she displayed this talent before? (And no, 40 Year Old VIrgin doesn't count.) Elizabeth Shue also makes a fantastic cameo,which is actually more than a cameo. She stars as herself who left the business to become a nurse, and while talking to Dana's class about acting, one student asks what she misses about acting. Her response? "Making out with people. You know, really the only bad thing about being a nurse is you don't get to make out with your patients..." And then she trails off to another place and time. She was quite hilarious, especially when she attends the play presumably high. Her childlike wonder was beautifully played.
Is the movie a work of art? Not even close. Do I recommend it? Not exactly. Were some of the jokes forced? Well, yes. But did I laugh out loud during the entire movie? Yes. I even clapped a few times. Scenes worth highlighting are Keener's dinner speech, Coogan's toy-piano impotence-song in the hospital waiting room, the entire play of Hamlet 2 (Jesus moonwalks on water!), and the moment when recovering-alcoholic Dana drinks an entire bottle of Peach Schnapps (although it might as well have been gin or whiskey). This is one of the few movies that I'm actually planning on seeing twice. Possibly more. Dana, who roller skates to work because he can't afford gas, gets stuck in a gravel parking lot and screams, "Gravel is the bane of my existence!" That alone is worth seeing again.