In this irreverent comedy, a failed actor-turned-worse-high-school-drama-teacher rallies his Tucson, AZ students as he conceives and stages politically incorrect musical sequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Dana Marschz is a failed actor and recovering alcoholic who's moved to Tucson to teach high school drama, where he's plagued by bad reviews, student indifference, budget woes (he and his wife, who is trying to get pregnant, take in a boarder), and his own teaching limitations. Because the other electives are closed, he finds himself with a large class of seeming gang-bangers, and the principal informs him that drama will be cut next trimester. On the advice of a student reviewer, Dana decides to stage his own play, a sequel to "Hamlet" in which the prince and Jesus, with the use of a time machine, try to save Gertrude and Ophelia. Can Dana for once pull something off? Written by
Surprisingly Great Comedy - Elisabeth Shue is Marvelous!
Screened this surprise comedy gem at Sundance 2008, and judging from the reaction of festival goers this is the best of the fest. The story is about Dana Marschz (Coogan) who is a complete and utter failure as an actor. As such the only gig he can get is teaching drama at a low funded Tuscon, Az high school. His wife (Keener) isn't too happy with the living conditions which includes little money and a random roomie (Arquette) to help pay the bills. As luck would have it though Dana's life is about to change. His drama class unexpectedly inherits a bunch of misfit kids who need more then a little motivation, then Dana has a chance encounter with the goddess that is Elisabeth Shue who now lives in Tuscon and works as a nurse because she is sick of Hollywood. To top things off Dana has just one last chance at creating a masterpiece before the curtain comes down for the final time. By shear will and a good bit of madness Dana creates Hamlet 2, which very well could be the most horrible play in human existence. Short on talent but strong on enthusiasm the group of misfit students come together to bring to life Dana's opus. With both disastrous and beautiful results Dana's masterpiece thrills and amazes in what can only be called a very interesting movie going experience.
I don't want to over hype the film, its certainly not Little Miss Sunshine, but it can hold its own with the smart and hip comedies that we've come to expect from the indie circuit. Steven Coogan finally has his vehicle to break through to the American cinema and it should definitely increase all our awareness of his comedic genius. More unexpectedly though the best part of the show is Elisabeth Shue who is so fantastic playing a parody of herself. Certainly one of my favorite on screen performances in a long while. Aside from the actors, you can expect a nifty little group of musical sequences that are both funny and actually performed quite well by the talented young folks in the flick. Movie should work on all levels, there is some questionable material, but if you don't take risks in comedy you aren't going anywhere new which is exactly why this is a comedy worth watching.
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