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Dan Steinberg/AP
Actor/comedian Steve Coogan

Movies Coming Soon: Hamlet 2

August 23, 2008
by Michael Koegel
“Grease II,” “Alien vs. Predator,” “Police Academy VI.” These three films are only a few of the many sequels nobody expected or deserved to see, yet somehow, they all ended up in your local cineplex. Given that, is “Hamlet 2” really that ridiculous a concept? Sure, most of the cast has died by the end of the play. But Ripley died in “Alien 3,” and that didn’t stop her from coming back for another flick; why should the Prince of Denmark be any different?

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To be fair, “Hamlet 2 isn’t really a sequel to Hamlet. It’s the story of an out-of-work actor turned high school teacher, who writes and directs his own sequel to the Bard’s masterpiece—complete with time machines and cell phones, natch. Written by Pam Brady (“South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut”) and Andrew Fleming (“The Craft”), “Hamlet 2” stars British comedian Steve Coogan. Not since Christopher Guest sashayed across his high school auditorium as Corky St. Clair in “Waiting for Guffman,” has a thespian been as goofily self-deluded as Coogan’s Dana Marschz.
“Hamlet 2”, which also stars Catherine Keener, Elisabeth Shue and David Arquette, was one of the breakout films from last season’s Sundance Film Festival. Like its predecessor, the 2006 Sundance darling “Little Miss Sunshine,” the producers of “Hamlet 2” (one of whom, Eric Eisner, is the son of media mogul Michael) hope it will be the next indy comedy that could break $100 million. Entertainment Weekly interviewed some of the stars of Hamlet 2 during this year’s festival in Park City, Utah.
There has been a good deal of positive buzz surrounding the film, and the EW critic liked it. However, Variety’s review was lukewarm; it’s anyone’s guess if this film will catch fire among movie audiences.
When most people think of the Sundance Film Festival, they think of Hollywood moguls trying to get cell phone reception on ski slopes. But the whole point of the Sundance Institute is to help foster young filmmakers in a variety of disciplines including directing, screenwriting and composing. If you are an aspiring filmmaker and want to get information about their programs and how to apply, visit their Web site. While you’re there, take a look at the free downloadable short films.
Elisabeth Shue plays a version of herself in “Hamlet 2”; the premise is that she’s given up acting and become a full-time nurse. Frankly, if you look at her film roles over the past few years, it doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched notion. After striking it big in the ’80s in hits like “Back to the Future II” and “Cocktail,” Shue appeared in a string of misses (“Twenty Bucks” and “Radio Inside”), only to resurface in her Oscar-nominated role in “Leaving Las Vegas.” But after that film premiered in 1995, she starred in a series of duds, including “The Trigger Effect” and “Deconstructing Harry,” and has virtually disappeared. Perhaps a career in medicine really is in her future.
If you wander into this film expecting to see performances on the caliber of Sir Laurence Olivier, or even Kevin Kline, you might be disappointed. You were expecting Shakespeare? If you’re the kind of moviegoer who likes a little iambic pentameter with your popcorn, then perhaps this debate about who was the best Hamlet ever from The London Times might get your theatrical juices flowing. There are links to five versions of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy performed by various actors, including Sir Laurence Olivier and Ethan Hawke, and critic Benedict Nightingale’s list of the top 10 Hamlets (alas, none of the 50 women who have played the role on stage made the cut.).
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