Catherine Keener and Steve Coogan in Hamlet 2
Catherine Keener and Steve Coogan in Hamlet 2
It isn't often that a hit at January's Sundance Film Festival also finds itself at the San Diego Comic Con in July. But Hamlet 2 is no ordinary film. After all, how many films can boast being not only the sequel to William Shakespeare's Hamlet, but also the latest brain child of Pam Brady (co-writer of the South Park musical and Team America) and Andrew Fleming (the director and co-writer of the 1999 political comedy Dick)?

As it happens, the uneasy confluence of indie film buffs and comic fan boys may just provide the audience for this politically incorrect, sometimes funny, and periodically dull swipe at all those movies where a teacher inspires a group of high school students to play that instrument or solve that math problem. And if you like sort of snarky, frat-boy humor, as well a naked butt or two and a splashy musical finish, then you might even love Hamlet 2.

As played by Steve Coogan, our schlubby hero Dana Marschz's acting dream fails. We can see why from the opening clips of his demo reel of funny commercials (including one for a herpes remedy) plus a scene as a hapless villain on Xena, Warrior Princess. So naturally, he gets a job as a drama teacher in Tucson, Arizona, where "dreams go to die."

Once there he's revealed to be a nerdy, self-centered fellow who can do no right. His marriage to the termagant Brie (Catherine Keener) is complicated by their live-in boarder Gary (David Arquette). His stage adaptations of such unsuitable films as Erin Brockovich, starring his two best (and only) students Rand and Epiphany (Spring Awakening alumni Skylar Astin and Phoebe Strole), are consistently panned by Marschz's arch enemy, Noah Saperstein (Shea Pepe), the 9th-grade drama critic. And then the school decides to shut down the drama department entirely.

With nothing to lose and a tiny bit of encouragement from his pint-sized adversary, Marschz decides to pen his own sequel to Hamlet. To quell cries of "but they're all dead at the end!" he comes up with a time machine so that Hamlet and Jesus can return to save everyone -- and then casts all the ethnic transfer students who have been dumped in his class and who have no interest whatever in theater.

It all ends in a Fame-meet-Rocky musical finale, where Marschz appears as Jesus, who moonwalks on water while singing the raunchily funny "Rock Me Sexy Jesus." You can guess the rest -- well, except for the subplots featuring Elizabeth Shue as herself and the one about ACLU lawyer Cricket Feldstein (a scene-stealing Amy Poehler), who saves the day when the show is threatened after the principal and a few parents actually read the musical's script.