22 Jump Street (R)

10 Stars

In the cinematic vernacular, there isn’t a term for a complete narrative comprised of two parts.

The best online suggestions include duology (my personal favorite), diptych and dyad.

An official word is necessary for the purposes of film discussion. There are a lot of Terminator spinoffs but the first two movies (directed by James Cameron) can be referenced as one entity.

The initial pair of Back to the Futures and Godfathers can also be discussed as duologies.

To provide a different and confounding example, Ace Ventura is one of the funniest comedies of all time. One couldn’t possibly differentiate between Pet Detective and When Nature Calls because they’re equally hilarious. But the plot threads of the two yarns don’t interweave into one gilded narrative lanyard.

My long-winded point is: When we give ‘duology’ the communal stamp of approval, let’s nail down the difference between a ‘series’ (the Ace Ventura’s) and a ‘collection’ (the Godfather‘s).

In the history of the laugh genre, the top three follow-ups are Rush Hour 2, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.

But 22 Jump Street is the best comedic sequel of all time.

And it’s all about balance.

No fooling. Yin, yang and all that.

Out of three big summer comedies, this buys the pie. (‘Takes the cake’ implies self-indulgent thievery.)

Since The Hangover franchise pumped out dastardly sequels, a fatigue has developed amongst the American audience. Most moviegoers (including yours truly) can’t tolerate recycled narratives.

This movie does a twisted inversion of exactly that. So the self-referential jokes are palpable.

Two sets of twins make appearances and that just begins the list of ‘2’ jokes.

There’s quite a bit to admire here. The trailer doesn’t spoil any of the actual plot. Sure, Jonah Hill gets a mouthful of squid-ink but it occurs early on.

Neighbors releases earlier this summer, and several hearty laughs (specifically ‘the airbag scene’) are spoiled because of the trailer. A Million Ways to Die in the West spoils most of the quality jokes via previews.

Other filmmakers can learn something from the marketing department’s careful use of footage.

Call-backs are a basic comedic staple. So thorough is 22’s self-awareness that cutaways, bits of scenery, metaphorical discussions of production difficulties and the early credits sequence are dedicated to calling-back.

A quick digression regarding the credits sequence. It’s a montage combining original scenes, animation, cover art and comments on the state of brand endorsement and merchandising. It’s both a critical jab at the film industry and a salute to modern cinema. There are multiple cameos from actors like Seth Rogen, who never appear in the movie until this lengthy sequence.

This is where the filmmakers go ‘above and beyond.’ Any form of credits sequence is a gift to the viewer, and although they’re becoming more prevalent, there’s a reason most movies lack an Easter Egg: Unnecessary work. Oftentimes they’re merely add-ons and don’t contribute much to the overall experience.

But this one’s different. In a way, it signifies the filmmakers’ understanding of the industry. And it puts a satisfying cap on the comedic series.

It calls attention to all future forms of potential revenue through Jump Street spin-offs, thereby implying an end to the franchise.

It’s probably best the collection remain a fantastic duology.

Each time the plot encounters a cinematic cliché; it’s referenced by the characters mid-scene and oftentimes recapitulated through call-backs. For instance Nick Offerman returns as Deputy Chief Hardy and lectures the protagonists about repeating narratives.

Schmidt and Jenko ingest Rice Krispy treats lined with ‘Wyfy,’ the newest intoxicant amongst college students.

The use of split screen in this movie is amazing, and the side-by-side depiction of a ‘good trip’ versus a ‘bad trip’ is right on the money, and hilarious.

A similar scene takes place in A Million Ways to Die in the West, but is far inferior.

The creative editing alone is worthy of applause.

A couple notes on the acting.

Ice Cube’s rock-solid. He plays Captain Dickson and delivers a hilarious performance as a supporting player.

Jonah Hill is a talented individual. He’s credited as a contributor to the writing, stars as Schmidt and is a driving force behind the film’s production. Hill appears earlier this year in The Lego Movie as the voice of Lego Green Lantern.

22 Jump Street comes from the guys who made The Lego Movie. So it’s no surprise that Lego Superman, voiced by Channing Tatum, banters with Green Lantern.

This choice along with the credits sequence (and the reveal from The Lego Movie) exemplifies sharp writing. These creative ideas are wildly admirable. We can use more compassionate filmmaking like this.

Tatum co-leads alongside Hill as Jenko, the more physically capable of the duo. That Channing fellow is one of our finest movie stars working today. In the past year he cameos in Don Jon and This is the End, and plays a leading role in Side Effects. He campaigns for the role of Gambit in the X-Men franchise, and eventually lands it.

Now he’s Gambit in the next feature, and starring in his own film. I can’t wait for both.

There’s action, hilarious car chase antics and plenty of satire to go around.

22 Jump Street proves to be more than just a satisfying sequel.

The only question remains:

Will Dumb & Dumber To be better?

Neighbors (R)

8 Stars

In a comedy, it’s quite rare the female lead is just as funny as their male counterpart.

The only other example is Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd in This is 40.

But in Neighbors, Rose Byrne as Kelly Radner, is just as funny, if not funnier, than Seth Rogen as Mac Radner.

The recent trend in Hollywood is to release multiple comedies during the summer season. Most of the time, the general public responds to one funny movie in particular, and that comedic blockbuster is what’s remembered.

Last year, the hit of the summer was This is the End, in 2012 it was Ted, in 2011 it was Bridesmaids, in 2010 it was Get Him to the Greek, in 2009 it was The Hangover.

And, every year, another funny comedy is overshadowed by the success of the box office hit. Last year’s We’re the Millers, 2012’s 21 Jump Street, 2011’s Horrible Bosses, and 2010’s Hot Tub Time Machine.

’09 was a rough year, but ’08 makes up for it with some serious winners. Step Brothers is the most fondly remembered of that year, but let’s not forget Pineapple Express and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. (I’m a sucker for anything with Craig Robinson.)

Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West comes out May 30, so it’ll be interesting to see which movie ends up overshadowing the other.

Because Neighbors is great!

With an awesome cast, subject material that is both relatable and timely, and a hysterical script; director Nicholas Stoller’s got himself another winner here, folks.

Zac Efron’s performance in Neighbors is fantastic. He really sells it.

Oftentimes, like with Barbra Streisand in The Guilt Trip, a daring cameo can fall short. In Barbra’s case, her performance feels very artificial; like it’s been jammed into a comedy for outrageous effect. And unfortunately, her acting abilities just aren’t meant for making the modern audience laugh.

But Zac pulls it off; he plays a compelling and likable character, whom the audience feels compassion for. Not once does he feel out of place or miscast. There isn’t a single slip-up in terms of acting performance and he fits in quite well leading alongside Seth Rogen.

Rogen, for me, is always hilarious. But whether you like him or not, there’s plenty of other stuff to laugh at. Did I mention how funny Rose Byrne is?

I like that Dave Franco. He’s great in this movie, and is turning into quite a talented actor.

Neighbors earns its ‘R’ rating through a bevy of phallic jokes.

One of the film’s high-points is the sheer number of comedic performances it gets out of a cast of knowns and unknowns alike.

A young black actor, Jerrod Carmichael, plays a frat boy named Garf. His scene-stealing hilarious moments are numerous, and I’ve never heard of him before. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a lot more Carmichael in the future.

There are particular sequences worthy of note.

The first is a montage of period pieces; three scenes with different styles of shooting, depicting moments in the fraternity’s history. Each is led by cameos from comedic favorites, including the guys from Lonely Island, the Workaholics trio, and Jake Johnson from New Girl.

The other is reflective of an overall theme in Neighbors. It’s a movie for major cinephiles because there are tons of films references throughout.

The ‘Robert De Niro’ party is one of the most uproarious moments and has the entire theater rollicking with laughter.

One funny thing is the cameo by Jason Mantzoukas (as Dr. Theodorakis). He’s well-known as Rafi on FX’s The League. His character in Neighbors utilizes the same gag as the misleading doctor in Arrested Development. A similar joke appears in Family Guy and 30 Rock.

A final matter worth mentioning are the modern issues it offers commentary on. Lisa Kudrow has one of the funniest cameos as Dean Carol Gladstone, and all she’s concerned with are newspaper headlines.

In several ways, the movie makes a compelling argument for the harmlessness of fraternities. As of late, much to-do has been made over the evils of frat life. It’s nice to see somebody finally arguing for the other side.

Overall, Neighbors is a riotous batch of fresh laughs from a combination of reliable comedic mainstays and surprisingly proficient newcomers.

Whether it’s overshadowed by A Million Ways to Die in the West in a few weeks is of little concern.

For the time being, just know Neighbors is worth a trip to the theater!