Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

The Plastic Podcast

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Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

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Daily Plastic is a Chicago-based movie blog, a collaboration between Robert Davis and J. Robert Parks, the same pair who brought you the wearable movie tote, the razor-thin pencil pocket, and that joke about aardvarks. If you know the whereabouts of the blue Pontiac Tempest that was towed from the Plastic Parking Lot on the evening of August 7th, 2008, or more importantly if you've recovered the red shoebox that was in its trunk, please contact us at your earliest convenience.

Davis was the chief film critic for the late, great Paste Magazine (which lives on now as a website) from 2005 through 2009, and he counts this interview with Claire Denis among his favorite moments. Every once in a while he pops up on Twitter. He's presently sipping puerh in Chicago, even at this hour. Meanwhile, Parks, whose work has appeared in TimeOut Chicago, The Hyde Park Herald, and Paste, is molding unsuspecting, college-aged minds in the aforementioned windy city. Media types are warned to stay clear of his semester-sized field of influence because of the distorting effects that are likely to develop.

The © copyright of all content on Daily Plastic belongs to the respective authors.

Cathy Kanavy / Focus Features

Judging by the squeals of laughter in the theater where I saw it, Hamlet 2 has some of the same appeal as Waiting for Guffman and The Producers. Steve Coogan plays a failed actor who now teaches high school drama and plans to direct the students in his own play, a nakedly autobiographical sequel to Hamlet. If you sketch the movie on vellum, with lines, boxes, arcs, and arrows, it might seem to be a functional piece of comedy: attractive, load-bearing, and fully inhabitable. The dual pleasures of a terrible amateur stage play and jokes that are obviously, intentionally offensive sound like the strong pillars of a grand arch, but when the project is actually built, it's clear from the first rain that this roof leaks like a sieve.

One reason is that the so-offensive-it's-hilarious routine requires the filmmakers to operate with a certain amount of precision. It helps to know that they aren't laughing about pedophilia and rape; they're laughing about someone whose artistic abilities are so poor that his well-meaning treatment of such issues is hideously crass. The needle is threadable, but this film's crassness isn't limited to the production staged by its characters. In one scene, an ACLU lawyer played by Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live) mouths off to a large man and then holds him back by saying, "You want to hit me? Go ahead. I'm married to a Jew, so I got nothin' to lose!" Poehler delivers the line with enough spunk to sell almost any string of English words, but did they have to be these? I can't for the life of me figure out what's funny about equating a Jewish marriage to battery of women.

And once the film stirs its casual, unmotivated anti-Semitism into the mix, I find myself less comfortable with the jokes about incest, even though they seem to be penned by a clueless character. We already knew the character had poor judgment. Now we know the filmmakers do, too.

When it's not stabbing haphazardly toward irreverence, Hamlet 2 has the more mundane problem of not being very funny. Mild amusements -- like a guy who roller skates badly, or a guy who's trying to keep his testicles cool on doctor's orders -- are repeated until the chuckles are dead, like three cartoons tessellated on unfunny wallpaper.

The movie does have brief glimmers of inspiration: the roller skates are finally explained with a clever, almost throwaway comment; the abrasive theatre critic who seasonally trashes the teacher's productions feels like a character from Rushmore; and Catherine Keener's general attitude, like Amy Poehler's, is inherently funny even when her lines aren't.

But the only inspired touch that sustains more than a few seconds is the casting of Elisabeth Shue to play herself, a nurse in Tucson, a former actor who left the rat race because the world always needs nurses. Shue's self-deprecating performance is funny and absurd. Plus, she's right about the need for nurses. Maybe she can convince a few of her peers to follow her into the field of health care and stop signing up for dismal films that misuse their talent.

4 Responses to “Hamlet 2”

  1. Robert DAVIS says:

    An addendum about the Amy Poehler character: I didn't mention in the review that her husband is Jewish. He never appears in the film, but we know of him because she talks about her husband the first time we see her in the film, to explain her name: Cricket Feldstein. OK, that's a funny name. But when she harps on his lawyerly nature, more than once, please.... She's not exactly Jackie Mason. It is 2008.

  2. Steven C says:

    Here Here....Thank you for saying it. That one line in the whole movie made no sense and was antisemitic at the same time. Very Odd.....

  3. Martin L says:

    This line implied she had infinite backing from wealthy Jewish husband - that is more in line with the wealthy Jewish faith than domestic violence.

  4. Robert DAVIS says:

    Well not just wealthy but litigious. I get the joke. I just think it's antiquated.

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