Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, Amy Poehler, David Arquette, Elisabeth Shue
Directed by Andrew Fleming
Don't expect a night with The Bard. This cuckoo farce asks: Can an L.A. actor stuck doing ads for herpes cures find happiness by moving to Tucson and teaching drama to high schoolers? Probably not. But you'll be wearing a happy face for two hours watching the brilliant Brit comic Steve Coogan play him. Him being Dana Marschz (pronounced Mars-chhh-zzz by those who dare), a sterile recovering alcoholic who gets slagged regularly by a snotty kid critic for staging movies (Dead Poets Society, Erin Brockovich) as plays. "He fisted us," cries Dana. Pumped by the addition of Latin students to his class of whitey Christians and closeted gays, Dana rouses himself — not with his wife (the dry, dazzling Catherine Keener), who's boinking their friend (David Arquette), but by creating an original musical. It's a sequel to Hamlet that somehow involves a time machine and Hamlet (Joseph Julian Soria) raising his voice in song to implore Christ (Coogan) to "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus." Tucson's civic leaders try to close the show. Enter ACLU lawyer Cricket Feldstein (Amy Poehler has you laughing at hello), and unexpected support from Leaving Las Vegas star Elisabeth Shue, playing herself as a Hollywood expat who prefers working in a sperm clinic. Director Andrew Fleming (Dick) keeps the pace snappy. And the script he wrote with Pam Brady (South Park) recovers handily every time it hits a speed bump. It's Coogan's breakthrough star performance that holds it all together. He's sensational.