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Another one, this time one of my favorite comedies...

Hamlet 2 (2008, directed by Andrew Fleming)

5 out of 5.

"It doesn't matter how much talent you lack as long as you have enthusiasm..."

That line pretty much personifies Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), a high school drama teacher, and the hero of this very dark, very funny movie. He imagines himself an inspirational figure like Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society, but in reality, he's a poor teacher, a failed actor who's claim to fame was being an extra in infomercials, adverts for Herpes medication, and Xena, Warrior Princess. He constantly puts his only two students into badly conceived stage versions of popular Hollywood movies, and is bedeviled by a grammar school aged theater critic who is much smarter than he is. He's a recovering alcoholic, his wife (Catherine Keener) is a cruelly dismissive former pot dealer, and his cheery, often idiotically optimistic, demeanor is basically a mask hiding his barely concealed rage at his entire life. I told you this was dark.

Still, Dana soldiers on blindly, hoping against all hope he will one day create a masterpiece. When he finds himself with a larger than normal drama class due to budget cuts in other programs, Dana sees his chance to do something great. He writes a blindingly tasteless and artless play called Hamlet 2, where Hamlet, along with Jesus Christ, Albert Einstein, and what appears to be the cast of Grease, travels back in time to save the lives of all the characters who died in the original Shakespeare play. Oh, and it's a musical. And it's even worse than that description sounds. And it's also even better than it should be.

Starting with Steve Coogan's riotous performance, the cast is pretty much brilliant. Coogan plays Dana as a delusional, incompetent failure of a human being, but steps back just shy of ridiculing him. He's over dramatic, he's often inappropriate, and blindly hopes that everything will work out in his favor even when it's clear it won't. Catherine Keener's character is actually pretty loathsome, she's flat out brutal to her strangely adoring husband. The actors playing the students do a good job with what they're given, but it really is Coogan's show. It's a totally egoless performance, anything for a laugh. Also of note is Elisabeth Shue, playing herself as a nurse, having given up acting to get away from Hollywood B.S., and a small part by Amy Poehler as an ACLU lawyer protecting Dana's right to put on his play, even if it's offensive and borderline pornographic.

The film walks a fine line of mocking and celebrating it's cast of misfits and losers, the play itself is bad, but in it's awfulness it becomes transcendent, a celebration of the strange, the tasteless, and the just plain terrible. The two songs, "Raped in the Face" and "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus" are surprisingly catchy and will continue to stick in your head for a long time after watching the film. I often wondered why I found this pitch black farce so funny, but in the end, I just gave in to it's weird charms and it's since become a favorite that I watch often. I can't recommend this one enough.