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They’re Test Screening HAMLET 2!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. My guess is that they’re just doing this for marketing purposes. The film killed at Sundance, and I doubt this is conventional testing to alter the film. Then again, I know they shot this fast in order to make the Sundance deadline, so maybe they’ll take some time to tweak it now that they know they’ve got a distributor. Either way, here’s what one spy thought:

Hello Harry, I just got back from a test screening of Andrew Fleming's hilarious irreverent comedy, HAMLET 2, at the AMC 30 Block in Orange, Ca. As some of you may remember, HAMLET 2 was a big hit at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by Focus Films for $10 million, and thus is in a position to become this year's LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, with an R-rating to match. And with the right kind of marketing it could very well be that. When I got to the theater there were already 30-40 people in line and it was 5:45 p.m. (the invitation said arrive by 6:45 p.m., but I've learned from experience to arrive at least an hour before the stated time on the invitation for these things). Because I arrived early I had no problem getting in and once inside I decided to scan the audience to see if I noticed anyone notable (i.e. director, actor) in attendance. Andrew Fleming arrived about ten minutes before the 7:30 p.m. start time and soon we were greeted by a representative of the marketing company that was conducting the screening who properly informed us that we were the first of the general public to see HAMLET 2 and proceeded to give us the usual spiel about the film being a work-in-progress and technical flaws that will be corrected later. Aside from a couple of very minor color or lighting issues and unless they want to make some tweak with the sound I can't imagine what else they could do with this film technically because it looks finished to me. So now the film begins and opens with an hilarious montage of Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) and his failed acting career and informs us via voice-over how rock bottom he has hit career-wise and that he is now teaching drama at a Tucson, Arizona high school. We find that he only has two students in his class, both of whom are drama geeks: Rand Posin (Skyler Astin), a closeted homosexual who is not quite comfortable with his sexuality, and Epiphany Sellars (Phoebe Strole) as the repressed, racially insensitive resident school drama queen whose verbal exchanges with some of her minority classmates make for some of the funniest moments in the film. Marschz is a man who is going through a lot in his personal life. He has an over-bearing wife (Catherine Keener) who wants to have a baby and is constantly putting him down for not giving her one and wants him to get a real job so they can get rid of the annoying slacker/ boarder (David Arquette) they have living with them; his annual plays which are bad reworkings of major Hollywood films (ERIN BROKOVICH is one of them) get routinely trounced by the school newspaper's drama critic; he finds out that due to budget cuts his beloved drama program will be axed by the end of the school year; he can't even afford a car so he has to roller-skate back and forth to work and now due to certain circumstances he is forced to take on some minority (Hispanic) students who don't exactly have an appreciation for the Arts and don't want to be in his class. He eventually wins them over by emulating Robin William's John Keating from "Dead Poets Society" and by convincing them to be in his play which he hopes will raise enough money and give the drama program enough esteem to continue on or at worst it could be his swan song to the art that he has so much passion for. So he decides to do a sequel to what many consider to be the greatest play of all time - William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Well as some of you may know, everyone dies at the end of Hamlet including Hamlet's love, Ophelia. The solution? Have Hamlet go back in time with a time machine provided by Jesus Christ himself so that he can go back and save his love, Ophelia, and set it all to a rock music score featuring Elton John's "Someone saved my Life Tonight". Of course. Steve Coogan is a riot as the put upon drama teacher who can't seem to get his personal life or career in shape and I thought that the supporting cast all had a great comic timing and did a credible job of portraying his students giving that most of these actors are well into their 20's and Amy Poehler as an overzealous ACLU representative who defends Marschz's right to put on the play (school administrators banned it because of its homosexual subtexts brought upon a disgruntled student's complaint) is simply hilarious threatening to sue anyone because "my husband is a Jew". But my favorite was Natalie Amenula as Yolanda whose character is a wallflower and doesn't say much but becomes the unwilling target of all the film's physical mishaps and accidents just like Meg, in Fox Television's "Family Guy". The weakest link here has got to be Elisabeth Shue who plays herself in the film. Her character has quit acting and has become a nurse and Marschz meets here at a clinic while waiting be tested for fertility. She is simply there to serve as a love interest and an emotional catalyst for Coogan's character and doesn't add much to the film beyond that so she stays on the sideline throughout most of the film, like an emotional cheerleader. The film is an irreverent mix of WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, DANGEROUS MINDS, DEAD POETS SOCIETY, and, of course, HAMLET, but it also skewers school politics and bureaucracy while providing consistent laughs in between. There were a few times where the pacing could have been tightened a bit but it is clear to me that Andrew Fleming (DICK; NANCY DREW) has an eye for this type of comedy but this would all be for naught if the production of the play at the end of the film didn't pay off but it does maybe not as sucessfully as the one in WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, but it was very funny because it came across to me as an over-produced, bombastic F*CK you to the school bureaucrats who didn't want the play to be performed in the first place. But with musical numbers like "Rock me Sexy Jesus" and a local gay men's choir singing Elton John's "Someone Saved my Life Tonight" in the final production I left the theater knowing that I have not laughed this much during a film since BORAT. There's quite a bit of vulgar humor in HAMLET 2, so there is no doubt in my mind that it will be rated R for those who want to know such things. This may sound a bit cliche but here goes: HAMLET 2 – to see or not to see? To see my friends, to see. Towerman
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