22 JUMP STREET (2014, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)
I belatedly caught up with Lord & Miller’s second film of 2014, and it’s somehow even more self-reflexive and tongue-in-cheek than THE LEGO MOVIE. I was mixed on 21 JUMP STREET which, despite some good laughs, also had a lot of draggy parts and was a little too pleased with itself. It also had too much Rob Riggle, who sucks. The sequel still has a scene with Riggle in it, but thankfully it’s short, and he’s been replaced by villains like Peter Stormare and Jillian Bell, the latter making her Dixie character on EASTBOUND & DOWN seem downright lovable.
But this movie belongs to the leads, and they’re on top of their game. Hill peaks early with a slam poetry performance that cooks, and Tatum waits until the climax to roar to life (well, unless you count his over-the-top awesome reaction to a bit of gossip involving Hill and Ice Cube). You can still criticize Lord & Miller for eating their cake and having it too — skewering sequels and lambasting Hollywood, only to serve up just what they’re ostensibly above — but it hardly matters when the laughs are this frequent. From the dorm-hall twins who are never not funny to Kurt Russell’s son Wyatt Russell in a breakthrough role, there’s a lot to like on display. I’ll be curious if L&M ever try to have any semblance of warmth or heart in their films, because I don’t know if it will ever work (the point in LEGO when Will Ferrell tries to act is atrocious) — but as long as they’re being nihilistic with their intent to be cynically post-modern and cavalier, they’ll always be above average and below great.