Wednesday, July 02, 2014

22 Jump Street (2014)

Film: 22 Jump Street (2014)
Stars: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell, Nick Offerman
Director: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 3/5 stars

Switching gears from the Kardashian piece this morning, I figured it was time to review one of the better films in theaters right now, the sequel to the 2012 surprise critical and commercial hit 21 Jump Street.  Not stretching many creative muscles, they simply named the film 22 Jump Street, and while the film doesn’t tread on particularly new ground in this installment, don’t mistake it for a Hangover II style leftover-this is still fresh and fun entertainment, with a ridiculously winning pair at the center of the movie.

(Spoilers Ahead) Hill and Tatum, in real life in their thirties, are sent back to college in this hilarious follow-up to the original 21 Jump Street.  Once again, they’re undercover partners, but they’ve now become complete bro’s for life.  One of the fascinating things about the post Knocked Up period of cinema has been the bro-nature of films that have come out, ranging from the horrifying (most anything Adam Sandler has done in this avenue) to the sublime (how good was I Love You Man, and why can’t someone give Jason Segel something truly brilliant again?).  22 Jump Street has plenty of homo-centric overtones (the jokes about how Hill’s Schmidt and Tatum’s Jenko are a couple occasionally run a bit flat, but for the most part are solid hits), but at the center is a showcase of how your best friend can define even the most mundane aspects of yourself.

The film works best when it isn’t thinking too hard-you almost don’t want there to be a plot (and by-and-large, there isn’t one), but instead just a series of one-liners and gags.  Tatum is the better of the two leads, in that he is more effortless as Jenko, though at this point can Channing Tatum do no wrong?  Honestly-between Jump Street, Magic Mike, and that insanely funny cameo in This is the End, he’s proven to be one of the most charming leading men in comedy working today.  I’m thrilled to see exactly what happens when he turns to straight drama later this year in Foxcatcher, but he’s proven himself to be a truly terrific movie star in the past few years.

Ditto Jonah Hill, who obviously had comedic chops but has also proven that he takes his career very seriously.  He’s stepped up his game considerably since Moneyball (no more Sitters, but now just smart comedies, choice voice work, and two Oscar-nominated turns in Best Picture nominees).  Again, he shows his work a little bit too much here (he’s not as effortless onscreen as Tatum, and needs to work on that though Wolf of Wall Street was a strong start), but when he gets a great scene partner he elevates the movie.  While grand whenever he and Tatum are onscreen, he’s even better opposite snarky, nasty Jillian Bell, who plays his girlfriends' enigmatic roommate.  Bell’s entire on-screen persona is brilliant (she’s the clear standout of the supporting cast), not least of which is because her schtick is persistently mocking Hill for looking so old when in fact she’s almost exactly his age in real life (Bell, best known for her work on the sitcom Workaholics, could be in for a truly great year as she’s finished production on her second Paul Thomas Anderson film due out later this year).

The film occasionally gets a bit heavy-handed and there are stories that don’t really go anywhere.  Did anyone else feel like Wyatt Russell’s Zook was going to end up in love with Tatum’s Jenko at the end of the film?  I feel like something got cut on the editing floor on that one, and I think it's about damn time we have a bromance between a gay guy and a straight guy (seriously-straight dudes have gay friends, Hollywood), but by-and-large this is a sweet, wonderful delight worthy of the original film.  If all sequels were this light, we’d have no reason to complain.

Those are my thoughts-how about yours?  Are you equally as smitten with the latest Hill/Tatum mashup?  Are you hoping for a 23 Jump Street?  Where do you see Jillian Bell’s career going?  Share in the comments!

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