you want to see comically bad and grandiose amateur theater,
go to amateur theater. Somewhere near you, awful drama is happening
this week. I don't mean the kid bawling like a baby because
cops just found fifteen bucks of crystal meth in his underwear
and they're going to tell his parents. And I don't mean the
drunk guy behind the Tavern, kicking the waste-oil bin and howling
with rage because victory at tabletop shuffleboard was snatched
from his grasp when Worm and his new girlfriend bumped him while
tongue-wrestling to a Charlie Daniels Band track on the jukebox.
the guy in the alley isn't a bad actor; he's a tableau of handsome,
powerful anger, untapped in a ravishing display of manhood.
Can I tell you a secret? That man was me. God, did I look good.
Except for when my foot got soaked in semi-gelled fat.
about teenagers doing "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to
the Forum" or middle-aged hacks hamming their way through "Murder's
a Bitch", in a murder-mystery dinner theater. You want to laugh
so hard you piss not only your pants but those of the person
sitting next to you? You should see the production of "Hair"
at the Arvada Eggs and Bards breakfast theater. All-you-can-eat
scrambled eggs and hash browns, served by writhing hippies singing
"Aquarius". I like the restaurant's slogan, though: "Why not
get your theater out of the way early?"
is, you don't need to look very far to see comically bad theater.
And when you want to see it, why not support local, comically
bad amateurs? Still, professional--and sometimes decent--actors,
writers and directors find bad theater too wide a target to
miss. There are some pretty funny examples, especially SCTV's
"I'm Taking My Own Head, Screwing it on Right, and No Guy's
Gonna Tell me That it Ain't" starring Libby Wolfson and Sue
"Bopper" Simpson, Waiting for Guffman with Christopher
Guest, Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara and "Streetcar" on The
Simpson's. There are grandiose interpretations of amateur
theater, like Rushmore, which is pretty damn funny. Mostly,
though, the parodies are crap, and mostly on the Disney Channel.
Although, I can't say for sure whether that shit is supposed
to be a parody. It's the work of people who actually aren't
much more talented than the amateurs they're mocking.
2 falls into the crap category. It's a shapeless, weirdly
unmoving and unfunny mess of that lampoons sappy inspriational-teacher
movies while slavishly following their blueprint and plot points.
It tries to get cheap laughs out of overblown high school plays,
while redeeming its characters through the same, and trying
to convince it transcends the same shit we're supposed to laugh
I was looking
forward to this movie, because the star Steve Coogan can be
pretty fucking funny. And clever, like in Tristram
Shandy: a Cock and Bull Story. He created a few characters
in the UK that were profoundly funny, pathetic and sympathetic.
He's going for the same thing here as a Tucson drama teacher
who is going to be out of a job unless he raises enough money
with his next play to save the program. He is a terrible actor,
but a somewhat passionate teacher who wants to pass on the little
he knows, and produce his play versions of popular movies. Faced
with losing his job and the scathing reviews from his school
paper's critic, he goes out on a limb and writes his first new
material, Hamlet 2.
play, Hamlet comes back from the dead through a time machine,
as do Ophelia, Gertrude and the rest of the sad-sack Danes.
For some reason, Jesus is along for the ride, too. Hamlet
2 is a musical, of course, with jokey songs, like "Rock
Me, Sexy Jesus". With the Savior signed up for action, you're
guaranteed some jokes that are meant to be outrageous by invoking
the name rather than by being funny. Of course, this is Hollywood
shit, so it isn't actually blasphemous (or clever), just timidly
controversial. I would bet the makers were hoping to God they
would get the press coverage of a Christian boycott.
Hamlet 2, I waited and waited for the story to resolve
all its lame hoodlums-get-inspired plot devices and finally
reveal the big play. I thought maybe then it would get funny.
But by the time of the show, so much diarrhea has gone under
bridge that I just didn't give a monkey's right nut.
problem is Coogan's totally bewildering and sappy performance.
The man likes to gives his characters pathos, but this is an
unshaped mess. At all times, he's a 50-Watt dimbulb, and I mean
in intelligence and energy. Most of the time, he's doing stupid
shit that's supposed to be funny, like riding on rollerskates
in his tweed jacket. But Coogan undermines the comedy by making
his teacher sad and low-key. And he burdens the character with
so much emotional baggage it's pretty easy to forget he's supposed
to be funny. He's a recovering alcoholic who, of course, goes
off the wagon, There aren't any big laughs in that, and it's
dropped as quickly as it's brought up. His wife (Catherine Keener
- criminally underused - she's fucking hot) gets impregnated
by a boarder in their house and leaves Coogan for him. But nothing
leads up to this and the consequence is just to make Coogan
sadder, not funnier. Also, Coogan apparently has some father
issue that are never explored; it just pops up and is meant
to explain him. This shit is meant to add gravity, but who the
fuck needs gravity in a movie about a bad high school drama
teacher staging a sequel to Hamlet? Coogan would have
been way funnier playing broader and with a stronger backbone.
At the beginning
of the movie, Coogan cites several cheesy hoodlums-inspired-by-teachers
movies to his class. It could be a setup for a subversive take
on the genre. That maybe not all teachers are inspiring; some
fuckup kids forever. Instead, the plot of Hamlet 2 is
identical to their plots. The kids think he's a dork at the
beginning. By the end, they give their all to defend him and
make his dream come true. They've been transformed from thugs
to sensitive, inspired thespians, and the toughest boy and the
softest girl find enough in common to lick each other's faces.
Maybe this is meant to be satire of inspirational teacher flicks,
but shit, if it is, it's done so badly I missed the joke.
theater production is just painful. There are a couple funny
things in the staging of Hamlet 2, but the jokes are
primarily based on the premise that we'll think we're so fucking
cool not being offended by its faux outrageousness. It's a crappy
play, filled with awful acting and a stupid, obvious story,
but all that somehow stops being a joke. Instead, the crowd
goes nuts and loves it. In the end, not only is this drunki,
stupid loser redeemed, he goes to Broadway becomes a celebrity.
Seriously. This ending is easy and unfunny, plus it doesn't
resolve all the sappy "issues" Coogan's teacher has. Instead,
it plays into the simplistic Hollywood bullshit that wealth
and fame are the solution for everything. Without even smirking.
would have been way fucking funnier if the play tanked like
it should have, and Coogan was sent into a spiral of shame and
booze that he could never pull out of, or if he did it was by
being so drunk he reached celebrity status (although, mayb eI
am projecting my own wishes here). Sadly, director/writer Andrew
Fleming doesn't have the imagination or balls to do anything
unconventional or genuinely contrversial. So, a crappy story
ends crappily, and Steve Coogan shoots himself in the balls
in trying to become an American movie star. Two Fingers
for Hamlet 2.
to tell Filthy Something?