On paper, "Hamlet 2" is exactly the sort of movie that should appeal to me: a snarky take on high school theatrics, with an over-the-top finale lampooning the likes of "High School Musical" and its multimedia offspring. The material is ripe with parodic possibility, but the filmmakers have squandered the opportunities therein.
In the hands of director Andrew Fleming (the man who gave us "Dick" and "The Craft"), "Hamlet 2" is about as dramatically cohesive as your typical John Waters movie. In other words, not at all. I was reminded in particular of "Pecker," in which Waters shows how the wrong director can make even the most talented actors (including the wonderful Lili Taylor and Martha Plimpton) appear awkward and forced. Fleming achieves a similar feat with the prodigiously talented Catherine Keener, and with the sometimes amusing David Arquette, who's wasted here in a one-joke role for which the joke isn't very funny.
Whatever reason may exist to watch this film lies in the skill of its central performer, Steve Coogan ("I'm Alan Partridge," "Night at the Museum"), a comedian of protean abilities who does what he can to give the limp material some bite, and sometimes succeeds. "Saturday Night Live" alumna Amy Poehler provides a few chuckles in her abbreviated screen time, but overall "Hamlet 2" seems to think that it's a hell of a lot more funny than it really is. The movie fashions itself a cheeky little indie flick with a hip, ironic take on modern society, but it comes off more like the similarly disappointing and disjointed "Wet Hot American Summer": sporadically funny, but overall awkward, sometimes painful to watch.