(2008) dir. Andrew Fleming
viewed: 09/02/08 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA
Since seeing The Foot Fist Way (2008) earlier this year, I’ve found myself actually enjoying comedies for a rare exception in my life. Tempted by trailers and reviews, I went and saw Pineapple Express (2008) and Tropic Thunder (2008) in the theater and actually found myself laughing a craving more comedy.
Mostly, I think comedies are terrible. Because most are. Anything with Will Farrell, for instance, is pretty much guranteed to suck. And while Judd Apatow has cast his shadow across a ton of Hollywood comedies, with occasional success, it’s been unusual for me to be laughing, to be drawn to comedies, to actually pay the full ticket price for such fare.
And, to be honest, while still in this humorous bent, I found myself laughing at the trailers for Hamlet 2, in which the very funny English actor/comedian Steve Coogan gets to revel in the role of the most talentless drama teacher in the world, in the high school in Tuscon, AZ. The trailer showed many great asides and lines, puchy gags, and promising moments in which the film’s ultimate climax of a stage performance of “Rock Me Sexy Jesus”.
Well, we all know the cliche that the best moments from many a film are all revealed in the trailer. In this case, the trailer editor had more sense than the pacing of the regular film, notching up the level of humor in the punchlines with punchier pacing.
The thing about this film, which is co-written by Pam Brady, a writer who has both South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999) and Team America: World Police (2004) to her writing credentials, is that it’s got some very funny lines and some pretty funny moments. It’s executed poorly in the hands of co-writer and director Andrew Fleming. And the film goes for the outrageous and the lampoon, but then also wants the sentiment of the success of the losers and the students to translate emotionally as well. In many ways, this film would have been better to have been ruthlessly irreverant. Didn’t she learn anything from Matt Stone and Trey Parker?
The musical pieces have their flair, but lack the potency of the moments in the South Park film. I doubt that either “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” or “Raped in the Face” will be up for an Oscar this year like when “Blame Canada” made it.
Overall, it’s a shame. Moments, gags, much hilarity is deflated in the timing and production. Gosh knows that Coogan brought his A game to this film. And Catherine Keener actually has the best scene in the film, getting drunk on margaritas and telling Coogan who has been sober for 7 years that he should take up drinking again. There is also this solid running gag in which Coogan obsesses over the most banal and rotten films as the apexes of art, including his hilarious gushing over getting to meet Elizabeth Shue, who gamely plays along, though doesn’t get insulted for her lack of talent nearly enough.
Coogan is great. Some moments are great. Some will like this better than I did.
This may, however, have shut down my funny bone for a while.