Rental Corner: Same old “22” retreads
Last night, I saw a college performance of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” The first act was slow but as the idea of how one small lie can explode into epic proportions slowly gained my interest. There is no wrong way to do comedy but there is one form of it I do highly appreciate. The art of how one situation snowballs into something bigger and bigger and this play is proof of it. True its no masterpiece considering the delivery of the performance but it made me think how far we have come in the field of comedy to creating movies that are nothing more but an endless string of mindless jokes and gags. Here is where “22 Jump Street” comes in.
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return as buddy cops from the first film who are sent out to a drug investigation in college. What follows is very much the same thing we got first time around. Someone on campus is giving out drugs in the form of something that looks like a car air freshener and has a dumb name (here “WhyPhy.”) One of the kids is the dealer and it happens to become best friends with one of them. The two of them have to attend classes that mess with their personalities but evolve an understanding that makes them better friends. So as you can imagine the main problem I have is right in the first paragraph. Its literally following in the progression of sequels and doing things again. Now there are films that have gone this route and attempt to give it a fresh feel like Wayne’s World 2, Gremlins 2 or even more recent Anchorman 2. As long as the characters are given a deeper progression, it will keep the entry from being a mediocre entry.
Unfortunately, I felt there was nothing really new to gain from here other than simply have them do the same shtick but on campus. Even the humor is the same as it goes to be far more self aware than the first film to the point you are expecting them to burst out of the screen and ask if you find it entertaining. Now, there are ideas for jokes here but they don’t live up to potential. There’s an opening scene where they try to infiltrate a drug bust but find the cargo is full of animals. The idea for a joke is there but its not developed or perhaps explained well. Maybe they are using the animals for drug testing which would lead to open ideas for jokes but its never explained. Cargo truck of animals are found and hi-jinks ensue. 22 Jump Street even tries to take a stab at college life with midnight beer soaked games and beatnik open mic but it doesn’t have support or even have a payoff to it. They just exist as set pieces and then pack themselves up for the next one.
The only thing I remember that I actually did laugh at was the reveal of one of the characters’ girlfriend’s father. It lead to a rather awkward yet hilarious scene where they try to have dinner but after that, it fizzles to the background and doesn’t have a way to pay it off. It has a good set up and then it just fades or barley gets a mention until the final act. And once again, making your movie self aware to the point you are reminded that what you are watching is a movie doesn’t work. There is a way to do it without constantly bashing it over your viewer’s heads. James Gunn was able to work in tongue-in-cheek style with his movies to the point we feel reminded of classic horror/sci-films we grew up with. Edgar Wright had funny and smart characters while rewarding us with off-beat humor that reflects human flaw but yet relates to the characters we enjoy. Even John Waters is able to mesh satire of the American Dream as a demented soap opera like in Polyester to the point its so absurd we have to laugh at the unrealistic yet overly melodramatic nature.
Instead, we get the “amazing” Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who have been constantly praised for their “supposed wit” and “supposed style.” I never really saw any originality at all. To me, they feel like they are trying to make a modern Mel Brooks but it doesn’t work because there’s nothing original to obtain. When Mel Brooks did Spaceballs, you were so invested in the parody characters that it felt like an original movie. Even Young Frankenstein fooled us thinking it was a true sequel to the Universal Monster classic because of how it was in relation to those films while parodying the cliches and making something of it. The filmography of these two have adaptions and not a single film is an original thought. Ok, you ask? Why must I pick on two filmmakers who haven’t made a film from an “original” idea yet they have worked on “original” ideas in the form of television? You tell me! Why haven’t they sat down and thought about making a fresh parody as opposed to injecting it into a book adaption or taking a cheesy 80s drama? What is the point in making these movies when they are based on properties from other corporate materials? This is what’s wrong with Hollywood and so is this film.
22 Jump Street is nothing but a formulaic repeat to the point you can walk in blindfolded and know what’s going to happen. Even the self-aware tone pushes itself too far with Ice Cube complaining how “there’s no budget left” as the second half as the film feels oddly and cheaply made. Its an annoying exercise in taking a television property and bloating it to the point it has no identity. Its an auto-pilot mess that had potential but its only fame to claim is by having Jonah Hill being manhandled by an fake octopus and the two cops going on a drug high that looks like Sid and Marty Kroft created as a highlight for humor. Even the end credits pains me as our two leads are sent out on assignments that reflect possible sequels in hopes that never get made. I want to say this has “egotism” written all over it but considering the box success it has and how moviegoers can’t stop “praising” this, I best keep my mouth shut and let you watch your mindless junk food instead.
Posted on November 24, 2014, in Rental Corner and tagged 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump street, Buddy comedy, Channing Tatum, Christopher Miller, college, Comedy, cop drama, Ice Cube, Jonah Hill, Phil Lord, Sequel, TV adaption. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.