Contrary to what you may have heard or read, Andrew Fleming‘s Hamlet 2 isn’t funny. Unless, you know, you’re an easy lay as far as laughing at an ostensibly funny joke or bit is concerned. The crowd that reportedly whooped and cheered during screenings at last January’s Sundance Film Festival definitely qualifies on that score. I watched this thing totally stone-faced, checking my watch by the light of the screen every ten minutes or so.

A tale about a failed ex-actor and a generally pathetic drama teacher (Steve Coogan) staging an extremely bizarre musical based on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (but not really), it actually alternates between being flat, mildly embarassing and dreary. Then, after many obstacles and hardships, the show finally goes on and lo, it’s not bad. But there’s no way to believe that Coogan — an extremely mediocre depressive — and his high-school student cast could have thrown this B’way-level show together so it’s basically a wash and a wank.
There’s no other way to say it — Coogan is simply awful in this. Sloppy, dislikable, flailing, desperate. Fleming’s modus operandi seems to have been “whatever, Steve…anything you want to try is fine with me.” I came to this film more or less even-steven on Coogan — enjoyed him aplenty in 24 Hour Party People, Coffee and Cigarettes and Curb Your Enthusiasm, thought he was okay in Tropic Thunder, but felt irritated by his strangeness in Tristram Shandy and Around The World in 80 Days. Now I’m a confirmed non-fan.
The best and most grounded element by far is Elisabeth Shue playing more or less herself — pretending to have given up acting to be a Tucson nurse in the film, Shue has been sort of taking it easy lately so it half-fits in a “real” sense. I would love to see her again in anything. She has a great spirit and a lovely smile.