Friday, August 22, 2008

Reverend’s Reviews: Rock Me, Sexy Jesus!

Last month, I ranted and raved here against Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild, which begins opening across the country this weekend like a tasteless, insidious plague. If you should be powerless to resist the potent GLBT marketing force behind that alleged film and become ill as a result, there is an effective antidote now playing in theaters: Hamlet 2.

This goofy but intelligent, well-acted comedy won the Audience Award for Outstanding US Dramatic Feature at this summer’s Outfest, as well as the Audience Award for Outstanding Soundtrack.As in many of the best films that screened at this year’s festival -- including Newcastle, Ready? OK!, The New Twenty and Tru Loved -- the GLBT characters in Hamlet 2 are more integrated and incidental than front and center.

British comedian Steve Coogan (Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, Night at the Museum) plays Dana Marschz, a high school drama teacher in Tucson, Arizona (although the film was shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico). Unable to achieve success as a professional actor and similarly unable to impregnate his wife (a small part well played by the great Catherine Keener), who subsequently leaves him, Marschz is pushed over the edge when the school board decides to shut down the drama department.

In a desperate, last-ditch effort to save the department and his job, Marschz writes his theatrical magnum opus: Hamlet 2, an off-the-wall sequel to Shakespeare’s classic that adds profanity, psychotherapy and happy endings to the Bard’s tragedies. It also involves a time-traveling Jesus Christ, and features musical accompaniment by the Tucson Gay Men’s Chorus. As if that’s not enough to offend the sanctimonious school board, the students’ parents and a large number of townspeople, the show’s score includes such songs as "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" and "Raped in the Face", and there’s a homosexual kiss. High School Musical this ain’t!

As directed by out filmmaker Andrew Fleming (Threesome, Dick), who co-wrote the script with Pam Brady (South Park), the movie pushes the boundaries of good taste in parts but ultimately inspires. The climactic performance of Hamlet 2 is extremely well staged and unexpectedly moving. Shakespeare, Elisabeth Shue (playing herself) and "Sexy Jesus" provide just the redemptive tonic needed to recover from any unpleasant moviegoing experience.

UPDATE: Hamlet 2 is now available on DVDfrom

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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