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Hamlet 2

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Why do so many of today's movies start brilliantly and then go nowhere? I think they're like certain romantic suitors: strong starters but poor finishers. The comedy Hamlet 2 is plagued by the same condition. This movie, directed and co-written by Andrew Fleming, has good ideas, among them the absurd notion of a sequel to Hamlet. What it lacks, unfortunately, is the stamina to successfully develop those ideas. The story is about a Tucson high school drama teacher, the improbably surnamed Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), who directs a ridiculous musical in hopes of saving the school's drama program. When the school board, parents and community hear of the blasphemous play, they try to stop the production, until a publicity-hungry ACLU lawyer (Saturday Night Live's Amy Poehler) takes up the case. The first half-hour is filled with funny lines, most of them belonging to the flinty Catherine Keener, who plays Dana's frustrated wife, Brie. But the film outlasts its laughs by a long stretch, meandering into pointless subplots, which have no comic payoff. The movie tries to parody too many things, including inspirational-teacher movies like Mr. Holland's Opus and Dead Poets Society. The songs are mildly amusing, but the production is far too slick to be convincing as the work of high school students. Still, there is something sweet about Hamlet 2, just as there is about some of those ineffectual suitors. It is, like its hero, an endearing, well-meaning semi-failure. HH

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