9 June 2014

Remaining Optimistic


Have you seen 22 Jump Street yet? Expecting something to be shit and then finding out it's actually not is such a lovely experience because of how rarely it happens! Have you ever eaten a mussel? Surely anybody who has must have had low expectations from looking at it! As food goes, there's always going to be something more appealing than what looks like fish snot on a shell. Well a few years ago and during one of my braver moments I decided to give it a go and you know what? To my surprise I learnt that even though it doesn't look very appealing, it still managed to taste even more fucking disgusting than I could have predicted. Imagine licking squid cum off a sharpened rock that was once used to scrape shit from a mermaid’s arse and that's pretty much what eating a mussel is like. It was rank. I think that it's a general rule in life that if we have low expectations then there's probably a reason and we're usually right. The same is kind of true of films too, to a degree, although I'd argue you should always remain a little open minded when walking into the cinema. Yes, Michael Bay's next film is probably going to be rubbish but I'd rather remain optimistic on the off chance that I'm wrong about him being a talentless, angry, fucknugget... I'm not, but you never know. Expecting something to be shit and then finding out it's actually not is such a lovely experience because of how rarely it happens and despite the fact that it should be a massive raging turd, I decided to see 22 Jump Street.
There are so many reasons that 22 Jump Street shouldn't work with I suppose the main one being the complete lack of decent action-comedy sequels. Do you think Men In Black 2 is better than Men In Black?  Because if you do then maybe it's time to get your noggin checked because you're unquestionably fucking wrong. I suppose the Rush Hour Trilogy is at least of a consistent quality but only because it starts shit and then stays there. To make things even worse though, 22 Jump Street even commits that cinematic sin of being a sequel with the exact same plot as the previous film. It's about two mismatched cops who go undercover as a couple of students to try and discover the identity of a drug dealer... Wow, what an amazing display of creativity! In part one they went to a high school and in part two they go to college. Well fuck me, if that's not a candidate for 2014's most original idea of the year then I don't know what is! Literally nothing about this should work in the same way that nothing about the original should have either. 21 Jump Street was a movie adaptation of a corny TV series that's only remembered by a few middle-aged women and the kind of Johnny Depp fans that should be on a list of his potential stalkers. Not only that but the first film even has the exact same plot as the movie adaptation of Starsky and Hutch. All of these are comedy movies that are adapted from a more serious cop-show of yesteryear in which a bickering couple go undercover to find a drug dealer. So how the fuck is this actually so good?

Same shit, different film.
Well I guess there are three answers here with the first being that despite the complete lack of originality, the film is still really funny. I suppose the set-up of every stand up show ever is completely the same but so long as the jokes are new then there's still no reason you won't laugh. Well, obviously the jokes are new here and in the same way that the first movie knew its existence was a bad idea, so too does this one. The last film made jokes about resurrecting programmes that nobody cares about any more and this one is all about pointlessly continuing them with a larger budget due simply to their previous success. On the surface this might look like your typical Judd Apatow type of comedy but with this added layer of self-awareness it's possibly a little closer to the genre-defining metafiction of Shane Black. On the one hand it does have the same plot as last time but on the other it's taking the piss out of every other unoriginal action sequel ever. Like Jonah Hill before his weight loss, 22 Jump Street literally does have its cake and eats it. I suppose this leads nicely to the second reason that this film works which is surely down to the apparent genius of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Lord and Miller are two guys who have so far made an entire career from delivering great films that everybody justifiably assumed would be shit. Who the fuck wants to see a movie based on an old Johnny Depp show? And who'd want to see a sequel to that? Who ever thought that a movie based on Lego would be any more fun than watching a lonely toddler angrily cramming bricks up its nose? And beyond a weather report from the subconscious mind of John Goodman, what the fuck is Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs? Despite this though, they've apparently delivered each time by taking what we expect to be shit and defying our expectations. Every great director has a thing I suppose... Hitchcock made thrillers, Tony Scott did action and these guys turn a lack of potential into comedy gold.

I would say that right now, comedy is starting to lose its way a little and along with Edgar Wright, Wes Anderson and Richard Ayoade, Lord and Miller are its current only hope. Take any big screen chucklefest and I guarantee that there'll be almost no directorial style to it. Do you know who directed Bad Neighbours, Anchorman or This Is The End? Because you can't fucking tell from watching! If you know those answers then I'm guessing it's only because you know and not because it's obvious. These days comedy movies simply stick the camera in the actors face and boringly cut back and forth as two people attempt to be funny having decided to waffle shite instead of learn a script. Lord and Miller though understand that as film is a visual medium then there's no reason that they too shouldn't be as funny as their cast and that no moment should be left joke free. Take the closing credits of 22 Jump Street which consist mostly of various alternate posters and is as funny as anything that's come before it. The same is true of their control over the actors who I'm sure were allowed to improvise at various points but for the most part seem to be more focussed than in certain other films. Jonah Hill still basically churns out his usual schtick and Channing Tatum again does his playing dumb thing but here, there's actual wit where we'd usually just find profanity. Obviously it's not that I have a problem with swearing for the sake of it- it's just that I'd prefer it to be to help a joke rather than replace one. There's a fight scene between Jonah Hill and some girl here which is laced with swearing and yet that's not why it's funny. It's funny because it's two people who hate each other who aren't sure whether they're fighting or about to have sex and it's really awkward as fuck.

From the mind of Richard Curtis... "Love Actually?"
Speaking of sex, I suppose the third reason that this film works so well is because there's a sweeter heart to it where other movies might instead have cynicism. I know the relationship between Tatum and Hill is kind of a satire of every buddy movie ever in which they're basically one bicker away from actual fucking but it still managed to feel genuine. There are scenes here in which they break up, have affairs and even go to counseling to the point that the gay subtext is about as subtle as a musical adaptation of Brokeback Mountain from the minds of The fucking Village People. I'm putting it out there right now that this will probably be my favourite rom-com of 2014. I've said it in the past but I do have a weakness for buddy movies that psychologists would probably put down to my lack of siblings and constant fear of living a life of loneliness. God, I'm so alone. Please don't let me die. Anyway... my point is that this is still really good and not just because of my personal issues. So you know, they're two funny performances, from two funny actors, in an actually funny film that's helmed by two funny directors. On the surface, 22 Jump Street might look like it should be shit but in reality I can't think of a second film in an action-comedy franchise that's better than this. Expecting something to be shit and then finding out that it's actually not is such a lovely experience because of how rarely it happens and despite the fact that it should be a massive raging turd, 22 Jump Street is in fact brilliant. Anyway, not that I particularly give a toss, I hope that you also thought this film was as great as I did and I either way I guess I'll see you next time motherfuckers. Bye-bye!

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