September 3, 2008

The Movie "Hamlet 2" Deserves A Big Zero

No matter how you divide them, there are only 24 hours in a day. And as I’ve spent more and more of mine seeing plays, reading theater books and writing about all of it, something had to go. That something has been movies. Not watching DVDs at home but going to an actual movie theater right after a film has come out or, better yet, to a private screening room right before it’s been released. So it seemed as though the culture gods had smiled on me when I got an invitation to a screening of “Hamlet 2,” the new movie about a failed actor (played by the British comedian Steve Coogan) who pours his frustrated theatrical passion into his job as a high school drama teacher.

Alas, I forgot how much the gods enjoy making fun of us mere mortals. I squirmed all the way through “Hamlet 2.” I knew going in on that it was a satire. But so is “Waiting for Guffman,” one of my favorite movies about the theater. As it turned out, comparing the two is like saying that bologna and beefsteak are both red meat. Where “Guffman’s” humor was gentle and at times poignant, “Hamlet 2’”s jokes are ponderous and unfunny (the title refers to the teacher’s plan to produce a sequel to Hamlet for the school play). Where “Guffman” celebrated the indomitable spirit of theater people, “Hamlet 2” is condescending towards them.

In fact, I disliked “Hamlet 2” so much that I decided to keep my feelings to myself. Until I opened the New York Times’ Arts & Leisure section this past Sunday and saw a full-page ad, emblazoned with blurbs touting the movie as “Scathingly Funny!” “Blissfully Demented!” and The Summer’s Wittiest Hit.” Now, I know that movie companies have to push their product and that the word blurb is virtually synonymous with hyperbole. But I took this ad campaign personally because these blurbs were strategically placed a page away from the Theater Directory and so clearly aimed at my people — that is to say, you people.

That got my dander up and pushed me to take this defensive move. Heed this advice from one theater lover to another: skip this movie. Don’t even rent it. I’m not even putting in one of my usual links so that you click onto online excerpts from it because I don’t want to give this film any kind of support. “Hamlet 2” is a total waste of time and there simply aren’t enough hours in a theater lover’s day for it. Or in anyone else’s for that matter.


Anonymous said...

If you didn't like Hamlet 2, may I very strongly recommend that you see the supernatural comedy Never Say Macbeth ( It's a sweet movie yet smartly written. It's the first film to tackle the curse of Macbeth. In it, a science teacher unwittingly says the word "Macbeth" in a theater and unleashes mayhem upon a troupe of actors. It's out now on DVD. The trailer is a lot of fun -

jan@broadwayandme said...

Dear Anonymous, thanks for the tip. I've just put Never Say Macbeth at the top of my Netflix list.

Sarah B. Roberts said...

I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU! Oh how I wish I had those miserable minutes back not to mention my $12.00. What a waste.