“I feel I’ve been raped - in the face!” cries Steve Coogan’s failed actor turned gormless drama teacher Dana Marschz after his high-school stage adaptation of Erin Brockovich is savaged by a 13-year-old critic.
A pompous buffoon from Tucson whose deluded faith in his limited abilities rivals even Alan Partridge’s, the role is a good match for the comic’s goofy blend of hapless ineptitude and blind optimism.
As amusing as he is, though, Andrew Fleming’s follow-up to the anaemic Nancy Drew isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is.
Faced with a hostile wife (Catherine Keener), apathetic students and a principal (Marshall Bell) who wants to close his department, Marschz decides to mount the mother of all shows: the eponymous Hamlet 2, a sequel to Shakespeare’s original involving lightsaber duels, time travel and Jesus Christ.
The spectacle that ensues is an enjoyably taste-free blow-out reminiscent of Jerry Springer: The Opera and, thanks to its big number ‘Rock Me Sexy Jesus’, ‘Springtime For Hitler’ from The Producers.
Even with this in its arsenal, though, Fleming’s farce falls alarmingly flat in places, there being only so many ways - an advert for herpes medication here, some awkward rollerblading there - of showing Marschz to be an utter doofus.
Compensations come in the feisty form of Amy Poehler’s brash ACLU lawyer and a near-wordless cameo from David Arquette as Coogan and Keener’s lughead of a lodger.
But in one area Hamlet 2 gets it jaw-droppingly wrong: by having one-time Oscar hopeful Elisabeth Shue parody herself as a Hollywood emigre who has moved to Arizona to become a nurse.
As a single, satirical gag, this perplexing appearance might have worked. The more she turns up, however, the more it dawns that what we are
really witnessing is a career suicide every bit as final as Nicolas Cage’s actual one in Leaving Las Vegas.
After his over-shadowed turn in Tropic Thunder, it’s good to see Coogan take the lead this time out. But as memorable as his latest incarnation is, we sense he’s just treading water before the inevitable Alan Partridge movie.