Sunday, June 29, 2014

22 Jump Street

This will be very short and not very well-written. I’m not having the greatest of times finding motivation to write reviews on non-Oscar contenders, so I’ve compromised by mainly just putting down raw thoughts with a little embellishment rather than going too much into the nitty-gritty like I normally do.

Is it as funny as the first? That’s the question that seems to be on everyone’s minds. Many reviewers thought it was, while I feel many I’ve talked to say it’s a close call, but that the original may still be funnier. I honestly don’t know. But it really doesn’t matter because 22 Jump Street is a fabulously entertaining, incredibly hysterical movie that, like its predecessor, breaks the mold of off-the-wall comedies and comes out the other side all the better for it.

Nowadays it seems every comedy is either a bad rom-com (why they’re bad will be left for an entirely different discussion) or a movie with ridiculous people doing ridiculous things. There’s a lack of decent gags (where have sequences like Michael Palin and the dogs gone?) and a plethora of terrible jokes and antics that are annoying rather than funny.

That’s where 22 Jump Street comes in. Sure, it’s silly and outrageous, but it’s not wholly defined by those characteristics. This is especially true of Schmidt and Jenko, the protagonists. They’re really average guys who do extraordinarily ridiculous things in specific situations. But that ridiculous thing is never the redundant. Their normality is also important. Most of the time, they’re like people you know. Their relationships with others are startlingly normal, even if they’re done in an over-the-top fashion. So when they do really stupid stuff it makes it that much funnier.
As many have said, the movie works because it’s so self-referential. Aside from the perfect use of references to sequel-quality, the meta nods to genre clichés (the 1st did this excellently well), to various movies, and to the personalities involved in the movie are all terrific.

To delve a little into some specifics, the screenplay is spot-on and could end up as one of my year’s top five adapted screenplays, just as the original’s did. Once again, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are gut-bustingly funny. While most thought Tatum stood out in the original, I was more impressed with how great Hill was as more of the straight man. This time around, though, Tatum really is the MVP. He runs the show from beginning to end and headlines what I probably think is the movie’s funniest scene. But he couldn’t have done it alone. He probably couldn’t have even done it with anybody other than Hill; their chemistry is just that good, which leads to my next point.

Hill should really think about playing the straight man in more comedies. I know I’m in the minority as I find him only reasonably funny when he’s being ridiculous, but I think he really has a tremendous talent for knowing how to make the most out of a straighter part (not a completely straight one, though). Also, Ice Cube is not a good actor. He has just one setting and that’s loud, but he’s used to perfection here. His early scenes were a little too over-the-top for my taste, but his later scenes and reactions are some of the funniest in the movie.

After ruminating a little, I think I’ll say the 1st installment is slightly funnier. The gags may be equally funny on the surface, but I think the original’s work on a purer level. You laugh because they really and truly were funny, whereas the gags in the 2nd require the self-reference to achieve the same level of laugh inducement. Some of the originality is gone. That the gags and jokes are still pretty much equally as funny on the whole is really a testament to Hill and Tatum and to directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as they easily could have presented the movie’s meta aspects poorly. All that being said, 22 is arguably a better overall movie than its predecessor. It has the laughs, but it also brings the heart. Its actual dramatic scenes flow naturally from the previous absurd scenes and are well-done. Schmidt and Jenko’s “break-up” scenes particularly stand out, being both heartfelt and hysterical.

I hope there’s a sequel and I hope there isn’t. The movie gets so much out of making fun of sequels that a less funny third one could ruin everything good that’s happened. That being said, a 3rd one that knows how to be dumb could be great, and I thoroughly hope we get the chance to enjoy it.


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