Hamlet 2 was one of the first -- and biggest -- sales at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, claimed by Focus Feaures for a reported $10 million. And after finally seeing it -- at a press screening added to the schedule near the close of the fest by virtue of the buzz and the biz -- I had one of those moments where one feels totally disassociated from the second half of the phrase 'show business.' Maybe it was late in the fest, and I was overloaded; maybe Hamlet 2's comedy, if I had seen it at a public screening, would have gained mass and momentum from the presence of a more mixed audience instead of my seeing it with the rag-tag remnants of the press corps who saw it Friday afternoon. Maybe Focus have bought themselves the next Little Miss Sunshine, a wacky, sprawling-cast comedy that will have a lively, lucrative life after the festival. But after watching Hamlet 2 -- a shoddy and indulgent mass of bits from other movies with a shapeless, shameless performance by British comedic actor Steve Coogan as its unfixed center -- I wasn't thinking of Little Miss Sunshine or Once or any of the other Sundance success stories of the recent past. I was thinking of Happy, Texas -- the most recent and memorable example of a big-money Sundance sale where the excitement about the film crumpled as the movie descended from the elevations of Park City.
Directed by Andrew Fleming (Dick, Nancy Drew) and co-written by Fleming and Pam Brady (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Hot Rod), Hamlet 2 revolves around Tuscon, Arizona drama teacher, Dana Marszh (Coogan). Marszh is a fairly silly man as written -- name-dropping his time on the set of Mrs. Doubtfire in a futile attempt to impress his students, staging film-to-theater productions like Erin Brockovich, oblivious to the fact his marriage to his wife Brie (Catharine Keener) is crumbling under the featherweight burden of his own meaninglessness. Coco Chanel said that one of the secrets of style was to take one thing off before you leave the house; I wish someone had applied that maxim to Coogan's performance. Dana roller-skating around Tuscon because he can't afford a car is potentially amusing; Dana roller-skating around Tuscon in a caftan -- so as to improve his fertility, as Brie wants a baby -- takes Dana from 'potentially amusing' to 'definitively over-the-top.'