Sexy Jesus does not rock

By By John Fitzgerald

By John Fitzgerald

The hype at the Sundance Film Festival this year regarding “Hamlet 2” set the benchmark pretty high. Viewers seemed to really want another festival jackpot winner like “Little Miss Sunshine” or “Juno.” Unfortunately we’re going to have to wait until next year.
With a clever title like “Hamlet 2” my hopes for a film of greatness soared. Co-written by Pam Brady of “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” and “Team America: World Police,” “Hamlet 2” was quickly tagged as being highly demented and offensive. While the film was at times funny and occasionally amusing, in the end was very mild. But I admit, it takes quite a lot to offend me. “Hamlet 2” meandered around a lot of great ideas but never made up its mind on exactly where it wanted to go. It never seemed to win, lose, or offend8212;it was kind of just there.
In Tucson, Ariz., “Where dreams go to die,” Mr. Marschz (played by British actor Steve Coogan) is a failed television commercial actor turned high school drama teacher whose latest adaptation of “Erin Brockovich” was shot down by the student theater critic Shea Pepe (Noah Sapperstein). Things seemed as though they couldn’t get any worse for Mr. Marschz and his two dedicated theater students. That is, until the class quickly grew from two students to more than 20.
At first, the new roughneck students are slow to follow the lead and enthusiasm of the original two thespians and their farcical teacher. Patience wears thin until Mr. Marschz decides to try and teach and inspire his students like he’s seen in the movies time and time again. As a character reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite (seriously, it’s time to let it go), Mr. Marschz somehow helps the students find reason to participate in the next school musical, his recently penned “Hamlet 2.” For more bad news, Principal Rocker (Marshall Bell) has just informed Marschz that all the arts funding for the school has been cut and this will be his last production as the drama teacher. That is until the theme of “Hamlet 2” is leaked to Principal Rocker making him attempt to stop the production altogether. Oh, and on top of all this, Marschz’s wife (Catherine Keener) thinks he’s sterile.
After the students dope the teacher in the obligatory hallucinogenic drug scene, Marschz has a run in with a vice long forgotten and, after a comical attempt on his life, he decides to let the show go on. He is aided in part by Cricket Feldstein (Amy Poehler), the out for blood lawyer who will sue anyone for anything, anytime.
In a film that seemed to be playing off “High School Musical,” “Patch Adams,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Dangerous Minds,” I was constantly trying to figure out if the movie was so bad it was trying to make fun of these movies, or if it really was just a bad movie. My gut feeling tells me the latter was right.
“Hamlet 2,” with its “Rock me, sexy Jesus” catchphrase and filmmakers not afraid to offend (judging by past projects), seemed like a movie that was supposed to shock, but it just didn’t. It seemed that there would be a big payoff or some sort of redemption for having alluded to so many other movies both high school and non-high school alike, but there wasn’t. In a movie where lines like “I’m married to a Jew! I’ve got nothing to lose” are thrown about, it seemed like the film wanted to rant against Hollywood, or anything really, but never quite got there. In the end it was all smoke and mirrors and another victim of the Sundance hype.
It may not have hit all the marks audiences wanted it to, but don’t worry because Sundance is only five months away. Maybe next time.
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