Hamlet [1996]

Just when it seems as if things can't get any worse for high-school drama teacher Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), he quips, "My life is a parody of a tragedy." Yet that very ability to laugh in the face of defeat will allow this failed actor to triumph over adversity. A lovably ridiculous dreamer like Waiting for Guffman's Corky St. Clair, Marschz lives in Tucson with his sarcastic wife (Catherine Keener) and their silent boarder (David Arquette). Though he tries to inspire, like Richard Dreyfuss in Mr. Holland's Opus, only two students (Spring Awakening's Skylar Astin and Phoebe Strole) share his passion for theatrics. When the principal decides to eliminate his department, Marschz makes a bold move: he writes an original play, lets the class contribute their own unique talents, and puts the whole thing on as a fundraiser (they'll need to bring in $6,000). Sure, everyone dies at the end of Shakespeare's classic, but in Marschz's musical sequel, Hamlet 2, a time machine allows the Danish prince to turn back the clock to set things right. Just as his production starts to take shape and retired actress Elisabeth Shue (played by Shue) offers her support, his marriage hits the rocks, he starts drinking again, and the community protests against numbers like "Rock Me Sexy Jesus." (Amy Poehler portrays his ACLU attorney.) Though Andrew Fleming's comedy follows the usual inspirational instructor trajectory, ribald humor helps the medicine go down and Coogan gives his most unhinged performance since Tristram Shandy. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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