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"Hamlet 2" ** 1/2 (92 minutes)

Thursday August 21, 2008

After taking an unexpected month off from my cinema viewing duties, I'm back on the scene and raring to go taking in this indie comedy that sold for a (surprising) 10 mil at this year's Sundance. The posters hints at a pedigree that looks appealing: "from the co-writers of South Park Bigger Louder Uncut and Team America World Police". Unfortunately, as it turns out, these are just mere words. Starring England's Steve Coogan (currently making the rounds in "Tropic Thunder") and co-starring an impressive cast (Catherine Keener, David Arquette, Amy Poehler, & Elizabeth Shue), it only occasionally amuses as it tells the tale of a failed commercials actor who sets up residence as a drama teacher in a Tucson high school. About to be canned, Coogan comes up with one last ditch performance for his thespians: an original play loosely based on "Hamlet" (verrrry loosely based) that proceeds to raise the ire of most of the community before it even hits the stage. Coogan's endless buffoonery is ingratiating but, ultimately, tiring as you watch him lose his wife, job, and self-respect, only to win out in the end. Director Andrew Fleming ("The In-Laws") throws everything against the wall trying to get something to stick and, as I stated, is occasionally successful (I did enjoy Keener & Poehler and wished they had more screen time) but, in the end, the whole affair becomes a near miss for me.