Dueling Critics is a Where Y'At feature where movie critics David Vicari and Fritz Esker engage in some Siskel & Ebert-style banter about a new film. For this installment, they discuss the locally filmed 22 Jump Street.
In this sequel to the 2012 comedy spoof 21 Jump Street, cops Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill go undercover in college to bust a drug ring. The film is directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
FRITZ: All film criticism is subjective, but I feel nothing's more subjective than comedy. You either laugh or you don't. If you laugh and I don't, I can't tell you it wasn't funny, but on the other hand, you can't tell me it was. With 22 Jump Street, I enjoyed it and you didn't seem to care for it. Why did the majority of the film's gags misfire for you?
DAVID: Many of the jokes seemed forced to me, especially the ones involving cliches about sequels. I guess in an attempt to be hip, 22 Jump Street tries to make funny comments about bloated, inferior sequels, but that doesn't disguise the fact, at least for me, that this is a bloated, inferior sequel.
However, the film does have some laughs, and it is occasionally funny and clever. Many of the old age jokes about the two main characters appearing too old to be college freshmen do work, because in countless movies you will see actors who appear far too old to be playing high schoolers or even college kids.
I did wish that the movie wasn't so loosely structured. The investigation of someone dealing a new, potent drug on a college campus often seemed to slide into the background so actors Hill and Tatum can showcase their comedy skills in unrelated scenes that a writers meeting cooked up.
FRITZ: Your last point is interesting because one of the things I appreciated about the film was that I felt the procedural part of it was handled better than in most such comedies (remember, I had the misfortune of seeing the truly slapdash Ride Along in January). I thought there was a progression to their investigation. It wasn't Chinatown, mind you, but I felt it was reasonably plotted.
Self-awareness alone isn't a justification for poor filmmaking and if I didn't laugh consistently, the jokes about sequels would've annoyed me. One of the pleasant surprises for me was Ice Cube. I've never had strong feelings about his acting skills one way or the other and I barely remember him in 21 Jump Street. But in 22, there's a plot twist midway through (which I won't reveal for our readers) involving Cube. And Cube's reactions to that event made me laugh a lot. I also think Channing Tatum's an underrated comic actor - I like his timing and his line deliveries.
Out of curiosity, have you ever liked a sequel even though it was essentially "more of the same?"
DAVID: Yes, Tatum has good comic timing. And yes, Ice Cube is very funny here with his reactions to an awkward situation, but I thought he actually was one of the best parts of the first film.
As for liking sequels that are just more of the same, I did like the second Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, which is basically a rehash of the first movie, but I felt it was better made and fixed the original's storytelling flaws. I also enjoy John Carpenter's Escape from L.A. which essentially follows the same blue prints of his original Escape from New York but it had a welcome satirical bent. And I love the hell out of the animated Despicable Me 2. What can I say? Minions are hilarious.
FRITZ: On a final note, I think the film's final montage seemed to indicate that Lord & Miller (the directors) do not plan to make a 3rd Jump Street film. Even though I left 22 Jump Street with a smile on my face, I hope they call it a day with this one.