It takes a bit too long to figure it out, but about two-thirds through the song “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” — just a small part of the brash and bombastic finale in a film actually called “Hamlet 2” — you see this movie for what it really is: A goddamn “South Park” episode.
Filled with Howard Stern-like humor and racial epithets, “Hamlet 2” is a childish grab-bag. But that’s not to say it’s awful. In fact, at times this could be argued as one of funnier and more cutting-edge comedies of this year. It’s just that the whole thing is uneven and incomplete. Unlike high school Shakespeare, you probably won’t appreciate this after the fact. But for what it is, it’s an amusingly sick way to kill an hour and a half.
Dana Marschz (the indelible Steve Coogan, “Tropic Thunder”) is a fledgling actor-turned-high-school-drama-teacher in dire need of something to keep his curriculum alive. With his class of kiss-ass students and thugs-for-life, Marschz comes up with the idea to craft a sequel around one of the most cherished pieces of literature ever written.
But … didn’t the protagonist die at the end of “Hamlet”? Taking that into account, it’s not surprising that Marschz writes the play in just one night, or rather a hysterical, nudity-laced montage. Nor is it surprising that he uses a time machine as a plot device. Clearly, this is the work of a madman.
Sure enough, the play turns out to be an abomination, complete with a gay-men’s choir score, allusions to “Grease” and Marschz playing J.C. himself. Only, this is a sexy Jesus.
In true “South Park” fashion, each character has his own uproarious scene, and shocking moments are occasionally, if not accidentally, achieved. Still, there’s a general sensation of pointlessness lingering throughout the film. Interesting too, as co-screenwriter Pam Brady worked on “South Park” and its cinematic off-shoot for a number of years. The jokes are meant to be fast and furious, yet they lack the speed of an “Airplane,” or even the true shock of a “Borat.” This is just a moderately funny comedy that fails to move past its initial, clever premise. It’s as if the filmmakers were happy solely with the bold title.
Yet, the film elicits laughs anyway. When a song featuring lyrics like “I was raped in the face” plays, it’s tough not to crack a small, if not a little nervously. When Marschz lashes out at a local critic that berates his work, he cusses at the little 13-year old bastard and it’s hysterical. And when Marschz tries improv acting with his students, only to reveal his genitals during a fake kick it’s even funnier. Yes, “Hamlet 2” certainly has a few crowd pleasing jokes.
But still, this film feels flat. Like virtually every episode of “South Park,” the story and jokes serve each other well enough, but with no real purpose. Maybe it’d be better to just watch the show.
At times absurd, and often disgusting or mean, “Hamlet 2,” leaves us nonetheless wanting more. Coogan’s got the chops to lead a film like this, and he really owns a lot of his jokes. It’s flawed, but one things’ for sure: It’s certainly the most creative sequel of the year.