HAMLET 2 — ** — Steve Coogan, Joseph Julian Soria, Catherine Keener; rated R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, brief drugs, slurs, brief nudity)

Your appreciation — or lack thereof — for "Hamlet 2" pretty much depends on how you feel about one specific joke featured in the movie.

And yes, it is the bit that has been getting much of this politically incorrect comedy's rerelease talk. It's also the gag that the entire movie builds to, namely an elaborate, climactic and highly irreverent musical number that's titled "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus."

To most audiences, it will be either howlingly offensive or just plain offensive. But the film gets as much mileage as it can out of the song. And it does the same thing with its star, the sometimes abrasive, British actor Steve Coogan.

He plays Dana Marschz, a failed actor who's now in Tucson, teaching drama to uninterested students. Worse, his program is in danger of being canceled, unless he can convince the school administration to reconsider that decision.

So, Dana has decided to put on an "original" work that he's written, which is a sequel to Shakespeare's classic tragedy. (Somehow Dana manages to work in some science-fiction, pop-culture and other outside elements into the tale.)

However, no one really seems to believe in him or his play — not his wife (Catherine Keener), not the heartless school principal (Marshall Bell), not his newest students (Joseph Julian Soria and Melonie Diaz) and not even his star pupils (Skylar Astin and Phoebe Strole).

There are a few good-natured goofs here and there, such as good-sport actress Elisabeth Shue, who plays herself. And Amy Poehler steals scenes in a very brief but funny supporting bit as an ACLU attorney.

Unfortunately, director Andrew Fleming (2003's "The In-Laws") and his co-screenwriter Pam Brady (TV's "South Park") only hit their desired targets about half the time. Also, at times Coogan seems like he's trying so hard to make this material funny that you worry for his health.

"Hamlet 2" is rated R for strong sexual language (profanity, vulgar slang and other suggestive talk), mostly comic violence (pratfalls and the like), brief drug content and references (hallucinogens), derogatory slurs and language (based on race and sexual preference), and brief male nudity. Running time: 92 minutes.


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