It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The problem with a sequel to "Hamlet" is that everybody interesting is dead by the end. That doesn't discourage Dana Marschz, a Tucson high school drama teacher, from trying to save the school's theater program with a sequel named "Hamlet 2." The shop class builds him a time machine, and he brings back the dead characters, plus Jesus, Einstein and the very much alive Hillary Clinton. Music is by the Tucson Gay Men's Chorus.
"Hamlet 2" stars the British comedian Steve Coogan, who with this film and the current "Tropic Thunder" may develop a fan base in America. He's sort of a gangling, flighty, manic Woody Allen type, but without the awareness of his neurosis. Oh, he knows he has problems. He's a recovering alcoholic, so broke he and his wife have to take in a boarder, and when his drama class is thrown out of the school lunchroom, they have to meet in the gym during volleyball practice.
Anyone who has ever been involved in high school theatrical productions will recognize a few elements from "Hamlet 2," here much exaggerated. There are the teacher's pets who usually play all the leads. The rebellious new student who's sort of an ethnic Brando. The pitiful costumes. The disapproving school board, which wants to discontinue the program. The community uproar over the shocking content. (Gay men singing "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus"?) The ACLU lawyer, named Cricket (Amy Poehler), who flies to the rescue but seems to have a tendency toward anti-Semitism. And above all, the inspired, passionately, more than slightly mad drama teacher.
Mr. Marschz (to pronounce it, you have to sort of buzz at the end) has seen too many movies like "Dead Poets Society" and "Mr. Holland's Opus," and tries to inspire his students with his bizarre behavior. This takes little effort, especially after he starts wearing caftans to school because his wife (Catherine Keener) thinks he's impotent because jockey shorts cut off his circulation. Principal Rocker (Marshall Bell) is his unremitting enemy, Octavio (Joseph Julian Soria) is the brilliant but rebellious student (he comes across as a street tough but is headed for Brown). Rand (Skylar Astin) and Epiphany (Phoebe Strole) are his special pets, now feeling left out.