Tuesday, June 24, 2014

22 Jump Street (2014) – Review

Review: 22 Jump Street is somewhat amusing and does have a good time poking fun at itself, but ultimately feels like a waste of everyone’s time (creatively speaking, as of course this mostly just exists to make money).

22 Jump Street picks up where 21 Jump Street left off with Schmidt and Jenko heading to college as undercover cops investigating a new drug that has popped up on campus. There are a few differences plot wise, but the film is mostly the same as its predecessor. This begs the question: “Why was this movie even made then?” Well, simply, it was made to make easy money.

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who generally make very funny films, decide to use 22 Jump Street as a platform to make fun of Hollywood sequels and the system that churns them out. This works well at first, but the issue is that they take the joke a bit too far, which leads to a film that is not very entertaining or interesting. They want the film to fit the joke to such an extent that they leave its narrative lacking completely. Even the character development, which was the first film’s best attribute, is undermined this time. In 21 Jump Street Schmidt fit in very well in with the cool kids while Jenko was a bit of an outcast (flipping on their expectations of what would happen when they returned to high school). This time, the same thing happens again but with Jenko fitting into the fraternity scene leaving Schmidt to hang out with the ‘art kids’. And, like last time, this narrative is about the conflict between Schmidt and Jenko being different and having to work to keep their friendship together. Thus, 22 Jump Street is retreading the exact same character moments on top of making the same jokes and featuring similar action set pieces. All this leaves the film feeling boring and unsatisfying because we already saw this film the first time. Yet, this seems like the intention of Lord and Miller, because that is the joke they are making with the film.

In an attempt to make fun of the Hollywood sequel machine, Lord and Miller have made a terrible and disappointing sequel to an enjoyable film, self-fulfilling their own joke. It all feels like a missed opportunity to make something funny with the good cast they have in place and entertaining characters they created with the first film. Satire works best when it is both biting and still creates a full narrative. This does neither. There is not really much more to say. It is essentially a less funny, less creative, less imaginative, not as well written version of the first film with no ambitions other than to just collect paychecks for all involved while making a mockery of the very thing they are doing (making a sequel to a surprisingly successful action/comedy based on a somewhat forgotten 1980s TV series).

If there is any good in the film, it comes from a few jokes that work and a few strong comedic performances (particularly Channing Tatum and Jillian Bell). I am sure that many will enjoy it, as it is just mindless noise that is content with going for the easy jokes while rehashing the first film. The film is in many ways an indictment of modern American filmgoers (in general) and the marketplace they create. It is terrible because it can be terrible – people will still go see it and apparently love it, regardless of actual quality. Moviegoers enjoyed the first film and seemed to want something that was exactly the same (but worse) for the sequel, so why even bother wasting creative energy on something more? The Transformers films are perpetually mindless, noisy, and artistically/emotionally vapid and yet they are more and more successful with each sequel. Michael Bay does not even try to make anything good. Why should he? It clearly does not matter. It just has to be bigger and louder. If audiences are happy with drivel then why should Hollywood takes creative risks when so much money is on the line? They can happily just continue to make the same things over and over again and take the cash and run.

Maybe I am being overly harsh on 22 Jump Street. It is pretty much what I expected it to be. I think that I am just disappointed with the overall lack of quality both from this film and Hollywood in general. Lord and Miller have made a film that is offensively lazy basically because they could. I do not like that mentality. This is a poor film and it is not really worth anyone’s time. Not because it is worse than any other bad film, as that is not true, rather it is because Lord and Miller are very capable of making another fun and entertaining action/comedy with 22 Jump Street and instead decided to just phone in a pointless sequel (seemingly gleefully pointing out just how pointless the film is along the way). This again leads me to ask a question I already know the answer to – why even make this film?

Technical, aesthetic & acting achievements: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have a good track record with fun action films and comedies like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, and The Lego Movie, which only makes their seeming lack of ambition on 22 Jump Street all the more disappointing. It is their worst film by a large margin.

Mark Mothersbaugh creates a simple and fun score for the film, but its seems as though much of dramatic emphasis is put on the soundtrack, as the soundtrack gets most of the good music cues while the score is relegated to filling in dead spaces. Barry Peterson’s cinematography is very good and is probably the highlight of the film. He does a great job with color, allowing the bright palette to pop. Steve Saklad’s production design works well enough with the film, but it too feels a bit lazy.

The cast of 21 Jump Street was very good and funny across the board. In 22 Jump Street, the cast is not quite as good overall. Peter Stormare, Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens, The Lucas Brothers, and Nick Offerman have some okay stuff in supporting roles, but none of their characters are really given any dimension and the actors are not given much in terms of good material. Jillian Bell is funny as Mercedes, a college student who thinks Schmidt looks too old. Like most of the film’s jokes, it too is overplayed but Bell has such good delivery that she makes it work anyway. Ice Cube has a bigger role this time around as Captain Dickson. He continues to deliver his blend of proud father/tough guy police captain with the same vigor and hilarity as the first film. He has a bigger role, but it does not seem to really amount to anything meaningful narratively. Jonah Hill is fairly funny as Schmidt, but he has been funnier in other stuff. Again, the material is just not there and the character development this time is poor. Channing Tatum, however, still seems to get the most out of the film, playing Jenko with lots of charming energy. If the film is entertaining at all, it is solely thanks to Tatum.

Summary & score: 22 Jump Street is pointless (and yet it is still a little entertaining…mostly it is just disappointing). 5/10

1 comment:

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