Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hamlet 2: It Likes Me Well

Hamlet 2Image via Wikipedia

E. and I watched Hamlet 2 with Steve Coogan Friday night and enjoyed it. It's quite a shaggy tale in that Coogan, as a failed actor turned execrable HS drama teacher, is obtuse to the point of madness. But it's a comedy, though some the pain in his personal and professional life is actually felt, which makes one just uneasy enough to wonder how far the story will go before bending back toward a happy ending.

Maybe it won't. They call it "art" (quotes intended ironically, as all one-word quotations should be intended).

Irony aside, It's knowing the happy ending is coming that makes so much narrative art pedestrian, though no less comforting. Of course, this one had a happy happy ending, with the crazy play within the "play" -- a literally deathless Hamlet; Jesus in a time machine being serenaded with the song "Rock me, sexy Jesus" -- enraging the rubes and touching the sophisticates and thus ending up on Broadway in the best Mickey/Judy "let's give a show" spirit.

What surprised me was the payoff derived to my surprise from the narrative thrust provided by the Coogan character's desire to deal through art with a brutal childhood in which he was apparently sexual abused -- "raped in the face"?; oh no; that cracks the glass.

But see here: In the climax of the inner Hamlet 2, Hamlet forgives his father and Jesus forgives *his* father. And I was touched. No, I didn't see that coming.

One of the pleasures of the Internet age is being able to repair to Rotten Tomatoes to see what the critical consensus was last year when the movie was in a theater near you. Among the "top critics," it was pretty much a 50-50 split. And it's true the tale was really shaggy, with a flaw for every two virtues. It's kind of a parody of flamboyant teachers inspiring "ethnic" students, and the parody of the Tucson Hispanic community is cringeworthy.

But, as they say, it worked for me, sweetly surreal, and Coogan *is* a remarkable comedian. I recommend it to you, if only for the blasphemy.

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