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Film / Hamlet 2

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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:

  • Acting for Two: In-Universe. Almost every student in the play does it.
  • Adam Westing: Elisabeth Shue quits show business to become a nurse.
  • Ambiguously Bi: The character of Laertes in the play was called "bi-curious" in the script (although Dana really meant gay), and as a result Dana cast Rand as that role due to Rand fitting that rule.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Rand, until his sexuality is revealed and he is Camp Gay.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: Dana said hearing the bad reviews for his production of Erin Brockovich was like getting "raped in the face". This statement becomes a song.
  • Butt-Monkey: Dana in the beginning. Also, Yolanda.
  • Captain Obvious: Gary in the beginning. Then it becomes Vitamin J.
  • The Chew Toy: Yolanda gets injured in almost every scene where she appears onscreen.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Epiphany and Rand in the beginning.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-universe: While writing the play, Dana mangles together Christianity, Hamlet, time travel, and his daddy issues.
    Dana: What is your fucking problem man? Huh? note 
  • Deconstructed Trope: The film serves up a deconstruction of the Save Our Students trope (see that entry below).
  • Fanfic: This whole film is basically Dana writing a Hamlet fanfic.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Subverted with Octavio. Dana goes to "the barrio" in order to try to convince his parents to let him be in the play, only to find that Octavio lives in a nice suburban home, has a 3.9 GPA, and wanted to take the drama class because he wanted to try new things. His parents objected to the play from an artistic standpoint.
  • 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.
  • Gave Up Too Soon: Rand, furious about being cast as a bi-curious Laertes and being in Octavio's shadow when the latter is cast as Hamlet and does a great job, quits the play and reports it to the principal. He then comes back.
  • "Gender-Normative Parent" Plot: Parodied. Octavio, a Mexican 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 small but comfortable home; Octavio himself is a very bright guy who was placed into the class due to his willingness to try new things. His parents' disapproval of the play doesn't come from a sexist hatred for the arts (the opposite actually, his father writes fantasy/fiction novels and his mother is a painter), but for the play's content.
  • Giftedly Bad: The entire show comes off as this. Dana eventually learns to accept it.
  • Gilligan Cut: "We must ask, where do dreams go to die?" Cut to Tuscon, Arizona.
  • I'm Going to Hell for This: Vitamin J, one of Dana's new students, remarks, "We're going to Hell for doing this play..."
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus"
  • Jive Turkey: Epiphany is this when she tries to associate with the Latino/Hispanic students, especially Chuy. They end up making out after he calls her attractive. Vitamin J, a drug-dealing and rap music-loving student who is friends with Octavio, also fits this trope.
  • Large Ham: Dana and Cricket, the latter kind of has to be one because she's a lawyer.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility
  • Meaningful Name: Dana is derived from Denmark, which Hamlet was the prince of.
  • Mushroom Samba: Vitamin J is convinced by some students to 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 British accent comes through quite a bit.
  • Rage Quit: Rand does one before he comes back.
  • 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, except the guy from the copy store.
    • Yolanda getting hit in the face with something, or hurt in general.
    • Mr. Marschz' malaproper as shown above.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: Lampshaded:
    Elizabeth Shue: He's doing the Crane!
  • 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.