Until recently, British funnyman Steve Coogan's appeal has been limited primarily to fans in his native U.K., where he's starred in a variety of BBC productions over the years. In the States, he's best known for supporting roles in Ben Stiller's comedies Night at the Museum and Tropic Thunder (and for allegedly introducing Owen Wilson to heroin -- something he vehemently denies). But Coogan is a talented, versatile comedic actor more than capable of headlining his own starring vehicle, as he amply demonstrates in Hamlet 2.
Co-written by Pam Brady, a South Park scribe who collaborated with Trey Parker and Matt Stone on 2004's underrated Team America: World Police, Hamlet 2 boasts much of the same irreverent, politicallyincorrect humor characteristic of her previous credits. Coogan stars as Dana Marschz, a failed-actor-turned-high-school-drama teacher whose enthusiasm for his craft is surpassed only by his lack of talent. When the school's theater program is endangered by budget shortfalls, he concocts a plan to save it by mounting a hilariously ill-conceived sequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet -- a play in which, of course, everyone dies at the end.
Hamlet 2 is chronically uneven -- director AndrewFleming (Nancy Drew) can't seem to settle on a specific tone -- resulting in an awkward mix of outrageous comedy and after-school-special drama. But Coogan's performance, even at its scenery-chewing hammiest, is a raucous delight, and it ultimately carries the day.
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