August 31st, 2008


Hamlet 2

Andrew Fleming's Hamlet 2 is a cute movie with several laugh out loud funny scenes, but it's also a mess. A big mess. It could have used another pass-through on the script, because most everything in the film is only half developed.

The often funny Steve Coogan plays Dana Marschz, a failed actor who becomes the drama teacher at a high school in Tucson, Arizona. Upon learning the funding for the drama department is about to be cut, he decides to put on one last big show to rally people to the cause of keeping arts education alive. Along the way, he inspires the jaded streetwise kids, learns to believe in himself again, forgives his father -- blah, blah, blah, you've seen this movie before. The problem with Hamlet 2 is that it doesn't know whether it's spoofing those movies or simply being its own addition to the Dangerous Minds ouevre.

Catherine Keener rocks the house as Marschz's fed up wife Brie, but her plotline takes a ridiculous turn that is neither fully set up nor properly realized. Frankly, I didn't know what the hell was going on with her, and ultimately her character brings nothing to the movie. The drama class kids are barely more than cardboard cutouts -- the tough kid who turns out to be a really good actor, the racist white girl who finds love with a Hispanic boy, the closeted gay boy -- so when the production hits some major roadblocks and they insist to Marschz that they refuse to give up, the scene is meaningless because we never know why they care to begin with.

However, the movie springs to life every time Marschz confronts the pipsqueak drama critic for the school newspaper, Noah Sapperstein (Shea Pepe), a thirteen-year-old boy who is at once the teacher's arch nemesis and greatest mentor. Those scenes are hilarious mini-movies in and of themselves. There's also some good work from Elisabeth Shue, playing herself, but the joke gets stretched to the breaking point by the final scene. Amy Poehler shows up in the last twenty minutes as an ACLU lawyer, and is in fact the final straw that turns the movie too high concept for its own good.

But the real meat in this meal is Marschz's production of the play he thinks will save the drama department, his own original musical "Hamlet 2". And I have to admit it's awesome. The much mentioned musical number "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus" is as brilliant as you might imagine, as is Hamlet's lightsaber fight with Polonius, CPR rescue of Ophelia, and confrontation with the giant robot head of his dead father. Too bad there wasn't more of that in the final act of the movie. Instead, they keep cutting away to the lesser enjoyment of the movie's plot. Had the last half hour been the play "Hamlet 2" in its entirety, the movie would have shined. Instead, as it stands, it's a tarnished, half-cut gem that may be worth renting, but not the cost of a movie theater ticket.

Some Thoughts on Palin, Again

Wow. I'm seeing so many entries on my friends page about how Palin is so untested and inexperienced she'll be an unmitigated "disaster" for the country that I feel like I must be reading the Republican talking points about Obama from this past year!

A lot of you folks are going after her hard, and I guess that's okay, but I'd like to propose a moratorium on using her five-month-old baby with Down Syndrome as some kind of point against her. Over the past couple of days, I've seen a lot of comments and entries accusing her of "running for VP instead of taking care of her special needs baby," and I have to admit, it's rubbing me the wrong way. The implication that A) it's a mother's job to be primary caretaker of the children, even if the father and indeed a wide extended family are present, and B) she doesn't care about her baby at all because she's accepting an opportunity to advance her career in politics, kind of sickens me. It's shockingly anti-feminist at its core, and I'm disappointed in many of you for raising it.

Meanwhile, it does seem to be growing clearer by the hour that John McCain is putting all his eggs in the "disgruntled female Hillary supporters" basket with his VP choice, and it's already backfiring with Republican voters. I don't know what's going to happen in the next sixty-plus days before the general election, but I have a feeling the decision to add Palin to the ticket is going to be looked back on as the moment McCain lost.

As Another Storm Bears Down on New Orleans, Never Forget

Three years ago yesterday:

This time, President Bush, perhaps having learned his lesson, is canceling his appearance at next week's Republican National Convention (he was scheduled to speak Monday, the same day as Gustav's projected landfall) in order to monitor the storm situation from Austin, TX. Vice President Dick Cheney is also canceling his appearance, and though he claims it's for the same reason, there is no indication that he will be with Bush in Texas or doing much of anything at all. Considering Cheney has the lowest approval rating of any American outside of serial killers, terrorists and pedophiles, feel free to draw your own conclusions about his absence from McCain's show.

But even if Bush, Homeland Security and FEMA have learned their lessons -- and all current indications are that this is being handled much better than Katrina was -- there is no forgiving and forgetting their tragic, deadly, horrifying indifference three years ago. It's way too late for that.