Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Review: "Hamlet 2"

Flat and uninteresting characters flounder through a lifeless script for the vast majority of a film that had the potential to follow in the footsteps of such great teen Shakespearean adaptations as 10 Things I Hate About You and (to a lesser extent) Almereyda's version of Hamlet. At times Steve Coogan seems as though he can't actually believe he's been reduced to a film of this low quality, although at others he genuinely seems to believe that what he's doing is worthwhile, which is almost more disappointing. His character is that of a pathetic loser, a washed-up actor who never made it further than dodgy bit parts and ad work, and who now rollerskates to work as a drama teacher. The character type is not a million miles away from that which made Coogan a household name in the UK, Alan Partridge. But whereas the humour of Partridge came from the idea that he was oblivious (or chose to be) to the way in which the rest of the world perceived him, Dana Marschz is a loser who seems not only to know that everyone else thinks he's a loser, but also believes he's a loser himself, ultimately making him an uninteresting and unsympathetic protagonist. Even when the half-baked explanation as to why Marschz rollerskates to work is revealed, by this point you care so little for the character that it falls completely flat.

Catherine Keener is wasted and seems to simply be going through the motions in a subplot that is almost entirely pointless. Playing the wife of Coogan's character, it's not so much that you can see where their relationship is headed from their very first scene together, but more that you never believe for a second that these two people would ever marry in the first place. The one plot device it throws up is certainly not worth the scenes devoid of both life and humour we have to sit through with Coogan, Keener and David Arquette's Gary. Other key plot points in the film - Marschz's winning over of the difficult pupils dumped upon him at the start of the film, and his surreal relationship with a young pupil seemingly unconnected with the story in any other way - are simply forgotten about or frustratingly ignored.

Ultimately the film never knows what story it's telling. After over an hour of ploughing away with the tedious and painfully unfunny life of Coogan's character, it realises that the focus should have been on the play he is creating, which, from what we see of it, whilst not being a comedy masterpiece seems ten times funnier than anything we've been subjected to thusfar. The film's use of one of Shakespeare's most lauded tragedies in both title and plot sum up the film as a whole. There are vague attempts at tying the themes to those found in Shakespeare's Hamlet (father-son issues with the main character, the play within a play/film), but they always come across as half-hearted and, in the end, pointless. Why have the film share the name of the overblown and farcical production created by Marschz's character when this feature of the film is largely glossed over until the final act? Even though the film realises that its actual focus should have been Marschz's play and not Marschz himself all along, bringing with it some genuinely funny moments and songs, this realisation comes far too late to save what is overall a poorly written and acted film.

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