Hamlet 2

Every once in a while, a movie comes along almost out of the blue and completely defies all expectations. Hamlet 2 happens to be one of those movies.

Now some may be wondering, “But doesn’t everyone die at the end of Hamlet? How can there possibly be a sequel?”

The answer is quite simple, really: time travel. Now I won’t get into some of the more detailed bits of the plot, such as the song and dance number “Rock Me Sexy Jesus,” but I will tell you that Hamlet 2 is as much a work of art as its prequel.

This 2008 Sundance Film Festival-premiered motion picture continues the tradition of good things coming from Sundance.

Steve Coogan plays Dana Marschz, a struggling drama teacher in the rapidly degenerating town of Tuscon, Arizona, a place he explains as “where dreams go to die.”

Together, with his two awkwardly passionate drama students, Marschz is living the dream, writing stage adaptations for Hollywood films.

His dreams are quickly crushed, however, when his lackluster play is railroaded by his nemesis, the school drama critic.

Furthermore, drama becomes one of the only art electives left for students to take, catapulting his class attendance from a double dose of drama diehards to a handful of inner-city teens.

Adding insult to injury, the financially unstable school administration has planned for the dissolution of the drama program at the end of the semester.

Not to be outdone by the troubles at his job, the infertile Marschz quickly finds himself in marital trouble by his motherhood-seeking wife, Brie, played by Catherine Keener.

Keener plays the role that you could have expected five years after the end of The 40 Year Old Virgin, which is to say the role would have called for equal parts of boredom and hopelessness with a dash of alcoholism.

Director Andrew Flemming makes another among a short list of directorial appearances in major Hollywood films with Hamlet 2.

Flemming succeeds admirably in balancing the sheer ridiculousness of the plot with the underlying messages of hope, growing up and a deep hatred for Tuscon.

Desperate to somehow turn around his failing drama department, Marschz pulls out all the stops in writing his final masterpiece, a sequel to the Hamlet classic. To his credit, he was extremely inebriated at the time of literary conception.

With a cast of some of the greatest young stars he’s ever seen, Marschz sets out on a journey of self-enlightenment and discovery, on which his students help him as much as he helps them.

At 92 minutes, Hamlet 2 feels a little longer than it needs to be. With a somewhat slow and rocky start, Hamlet 2 eventually finds its center of gravity and quickens the pace.

Infused with the writing talent of Pam Brady (South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut), Hamlet 2 fits comfortably into the sense of humor enjoyed by many college-age students.

Crude to some, profane to others, and downright offensive to just about everyone, Hamlet 2 is the comedy that this year has been waiting for.