The 2008 comedy film Hamlet 2
stars Steve Coogan as high school drama teacher Dana Marschz, a recovering alcoholic and failed actor who has earned a reputation for his poor adaptations of famous films (rather than his ability to teach anyone anything). At the start of the most recent semester, Dana learns two sobering facts: the school has cut its budget to the point where his drama program remains the only arts class left in the curriculum, and his class will end up cut at the end of the semester.
Marschz — now despondent over both the impending loss of his career and numerous other personal issues — decides to go all out for his last big production in an attempt to save the program. He writes a "sequel" to the play Hamlet
in the depths of his desperation; the "sequel" mixes time travel, Jesus Christ (played by Marschz himself), and the showstopping musical number "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" into the family drama of The Bard's famous play. When the school's administration realizes Marschz plans to put on the controversial play at the school, they order him to stop production.
While Marschz's students rally behind him and make plans to put the play on elsewhere, the school's cancellation of his play catches the attention of civil liberties lawyer Cricket Feldstein (Amy Poehler
), who turns the issue into a fight for free speech (and makes the play a national story in the process). Her work in protecting Dana's rights soon attracts the attention of numerous other groups, all of whom plan to protest Marschz's one last chance at greatness.
Hamlet 2 contains examples of the following tropes:
- Adam Westing: Elizabeth Shue quits show business to become a nurse.
- Ambiguously Gay: Rand
- Anachronism Stew: Dana does this on purpose with "Hamlet 2".
- Boredom Montage: This gets coupled with the Hard Work Montage when Dana tries to write the play.
- The Chew Toy: Yolanda gets injured in almost every scene where she appears onscreen.
- Captain Obvious: Gary
- Creator Breakdown: In-universe: While writing the play, Dana mangles together Christianity, Hamlet, time travel, and his daddy issues.
- Deconstructed Trope: The film serves up a deconstruction of the Save Our Students trope (see that entry below).
- Fix Fic: Dana turns "Hamlet 2" into one of these for the eponymous Hamlet, who uses Jesus's time machine to prevent the deaths of his loved ones.
- Freudian Excuse / Freudian Slip: At one point, Dana calls the principal "Daddy" and screams about how he never believed in him — in the middle of a wholly different argument.
- Frivolous Lawsuit: When Cricket gets knocked over at the play, she threatens to sue everyone.
- Giftedly Bad: The entire show comes off as this. Dana eventually learns to accept it.
- I'm Going to Hell for This: One of the students remarks, "We're going to Hell for doing this play..."
- Jesus Was Way Cool: "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus".
- Law of Inverse Fertility
- Mushroom Samba: Some of the students slip acid into Dana's iced tea early in the film. He wakes up on an abandoned couch — without his pants.
- No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-Universe, the titular play crosses so many lines that the protest eventually earns the play a Broadway run.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Cricket Feldstein uses her knowledge of various laws (especially those related to free speech) to keep "Hamlet 2" from getting shut down, which makes her a rare positive example of this trope.
- Off The Wagon: This happens as part of Dana's Darkest Hour sequence.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Steve Coogan's natural English accent comes through quite a bit.
- Refuge in Audacity: The whole play pretty much runs on this.
- One of the earlier ads for the film showed just the name of the film and followed it with a voiceover which says, "We apologize to the following groups this film may offend" before listing everyone.
- The Rival: In a parody of this trope, Dana's chief rival — the school paper's drama critic — is a kid who looks no older than thirteen.
- Running Gag: No one can pronounce Mr. Marschz' name correctly.
- Yolanda gets hit in the face with something.
- Save Our Students: The film parodies the "inspirational teacher" genre — chiefly by turning the teacher into a pretentious blowhard and making at least some of the "needy kids" pretty bright.
- It also parodies the Billy Elliot Plot in a brilliant manner: Octavio, a Latino student, tells Marschz that his parents won't let him do the play. Dana heads down to "the barrio" so he can talk Octavio's parents out of their "ethnic narrow-mindedness". The camera pans out to show Octavio's cushy home; Octavio himself has both a 3.9 GPA and early acceptance to Brown. His parents' disapproval of the play comes from a disdain not for the arts (his father and mother both make a substantial living from writing and painting, respectively), but for the play's poor writing.
- Shout-Out: Lampshaded:
- Small Town Boredom: Tucson isn't really smallnote , but given how the film describes it as the place where dreams go to die in the opening monologue...
- Stylistic Suck: "Hamlet 2" (the play, not the movie itself)
- Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket: One of the opening commercials has Dana playing one of these.
- The Voiceless: Yolanda finally talks near the end of the film and gives Dana (by now depressed and hungover) a Get A Hold Of Yourself Man / "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Dana apparently suffers issues about this with his own father — and adopted the school's principal as something of a warped substitute.
OH MY GOD, IT'S JESUS!