Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoe Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine
While the last decade has been the era of the superhero movie, there has remained a clear distinction between the live action and animated entries in the genre. Live action superhero movies have become the biggest show in town, genuine four-quadrant blockbusters designed to appeal to an audience much larger than just comicbook fans. The animated superhero movie, on the other hand, has maintained more of a niche status, tending to be released straight to video and remaining the property of the devoted comicbook audience. Sony Pictures’ latest attempt at rebooting their Spider-Man franchise, the aesthetically original and undeniably cinematic Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, is the first animated superhero movie to really challenge that distinction. Continue reading
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens, Wyatt Russell, Peter Stormare, Jillian Bell, Nick Offerman
At a time when we like our popular comedy dripping with irony, the directing partnership of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller is steadily rising to the top of the pack. After solid success with their debut feature Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and surprising success with the television remake 21 Jump Street, Lord and Miller had a legitimate popular and critical hit earlier in the year with The Lego Movie. With all three of those films, the pair took a project which was far from a sure thing and turned it into a hit with their unique and clever style of humour. But 22 Jump Street marks their biggest challenge yet, a sequel.
Having successfully gone undercover at a local high school to blow open a drug ring, the odd-couple of Schmidt and Jenko are back to do it all again. Now too old to pose as high schoolers, the pair are off to college where a new drug known as WHY-PHY (Work Hard, Yes – Play Hard, Yes) has claimed its first life. However, just like last time, the social politics of student life puts pressure on their investigation and bromance as the two find themselves moving in different circles – Jenko with the football crowd and Schmidt with the art students.
The plot sounds repeated and generic, but the beauty of this movie is in its complete self-awareness. At the beginning of the film, the two cops are called into the office of Deputy Chief Hardy who informs them that his superiors were pleasantly surprised by the success of the rebooted Jump Street program so have decided to do it again. They want it to be exactly the same as last time, although because they know it can be successful, the department has been given a bigger budget. He also informs them that they have had to move out of the abandoned Korean church at 21 Jump St, but were able to find an abandoned Vietnamese church across the road at number 22, which will now be their base. All of this is pointless, he adds, because everyone knows that nothing ever works as well the second time around. By winking at the audience, 22 Jump Street is able to not only parody buddy cop movies and college movies, but also blockbuster sequels.
They weren’t kidding about the upped budget either. 22 Jump Street is a noticeably bigger film than the first one, with a number of large scale action sequences, chases and explosions. These scenes aren’t particularly exhilarating in themselves, but they are there to allow the film to joke about action-comedies like Bad Boys or Lethal Weapon rather than as part of a serious attempt to be one of these films. 22 Jump Street is first and foremost a comedy, and it manages to be quite clever, while still engaging in more than its fair share of pratfalls and crude humour (of the sexual rather than toilet variety).
Much of the success of the film, like the first instalment, is down to Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. This seemingly unlikely pair displays an easy chemistry. They appear really comfortable riffing off one another and the film has a very loose style that allows them to do that. While Hill has always been known as a comic actor, Tatum’s comedic chops were a revelation in 21 Jump Street and he is again really charming here as the muscle bound doofus, Jenko.
While Marvel have, in recent years, made an art form out of the post credits teaser, 22 Jump Street uses its credit sequence to deliver one of its funniest scenes. Parodying the trajectory of blockbuster franchises, the credits deliver a series of teaser trailers for sequels from 23 through to about 40 Jump Street, with the pair going everywhere from dance school to beauty school to culinary school and various gimmicks and cast changes along the way. Amazingly, given that this sequel achieves the rare feat of exceeding the first instalment, you leave the film with the distinct impression that this franchise is not planning to outstay its welcome.
Review by Duncan McLean
Have you seen 22 Jump Street? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought.
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Alison Brie
The Lego Movie marks the latest step in the recent diversification of the Lego Group, producers of everyone’s favourite colourful, interlocking construction toys. The last decade-and-a-half has seen them produce a series of best-selling video games and DVDs, but a $60 million motion picture backed by Warner Brothers represents arguably their most ambitious step yet. However, rather than feeling like a film made by a toy company, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the writer/directors behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, have delivered a film that is surprisingly clever, creative and funny.
The Lego world is under the control of the tyrannical Lord Business. Business likes logic and order. He separates the Lego world into different realms, keeping the city of Bricksburgh separate from the Old West, Pirate Cove, Clown Town and the rest. He encourages people to follow the instructions and stifles creativity. But there is a prophecy that tells of the Special, “the most talented, most interesting and most extraordinary person in the universe,” who will reunite the Master Builders and remove Business from power. Somehow, the Special turns out to be Emmett, a simple, lonely construction worker from Bricksburgh. He is identified by the spunky heroine Wyldstyle who takes him to meet the Master Builders so they can prepare for their assault on Lord Business. Oh, and of course Emmett becomes quite smitten with Wyldstyle. But she has a boyfriend… and he’s Batman.
The Lego Movie is all about imagination, both in its form and its content. Visually, the film presents us with a world in which everything is made from Lego. And when I say everything is made from Lego, I mean everything. Buildings, vehicles, landscapes, water, fire, all Lego. But rather than this limiting the scope of the film, it makes it entirely limitless. The internal logic which guides the film is that of a child’s imagination. Rather than being kept separate and adhering to real world story logic, the different realms of the Lego world intermingle resulting in an amazingly diverse story where our characters include Batman, cowboys, the cast of Star Wars, Abraham Lincoln, pirates, Gandalf, Michelangelo (both the Renaissance artist and the ninja turtle), space men and Shaquille O’Neal.
A fun, irreverent adventure that feels a bit like Toy Story meets Inception or The Matrix, the film’s narrative reinforces this focus on imagination and individual creativity by taking its lead from the very toys which inspire it. Yes, Lego comes with instructions but the real fun is to be had when the instructions are thrown out and your imagination takes over. So while Lord Business desires order and conformity, our heroes are the Master Builders whose creativity enables them to see the potential of their surroundings, enabling them to dismantle the world around them to build something new.
The Lego Movie is magnificently animated by the team from Australian animation house Animal Logic. The animation, while clear and vibrant, has a slightly clunky quality to it which works perfectly with the limited pliability of Lego figurines. This animation is then complemented by a strong voice cast including Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson and Will Ferrell. You get the impression that these funny people have been given a little bit of freedom in their characterisation, so while the film is very much G-rated in its content, the humour has the same patterns and rhythms of today’s more successful comedies.
With creativity and originality in mainstream animation appearing to have plateaued over the last couple of years, The Lego Movie feels fresh and exciting. Clever, funny and with enough heart to prevent it from being a cynical product promotion, it is possibly the best animated feature since Toy Story 3.
Review by Duncan McLean
Have you seen The Lego Movie? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought.