Well this is a type of post I haven’t done in a while! So here’s a refresher for new readers and/or those who have forgotten (because I haven’t done one of these in over three months): Duets is a feature where I do mini reviews of two brand new movies or two movies that have recently come out on DVD. I don’t do this often—just when I’ve seen some things pretty close together and want to give myself a break by miniaturizing their reviews. Honestly, I feel kind of bad doing little reviews for these two movies because they’re both great. I will try my best to do them justice. Anyway, let’s get to it!
22 Jump Street
Synopsis: “After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.” –www.imdb.com
The High Notes:
- Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as Schmidt and Jenko. Their bromance is magical in the first film, and it is equally magical now—perhaps even a step up from before. Seriously, there are times in this film when these two could be dating. They’re both hilarious in their own ways, and when you bring them together, the chemistry is undeniable. Oh, and there’s a moment in this film when Jenko reacts to a surprising bit of information involving Schmidt, and it’s just wonderful.
- Ice Cube as Captain Dickson. He gets more screen time in this one, and that is a beautiful thing—particularly when stuff gets personal for him, causing some tension between him and Schmidt (you’ll see). The guy cracks me up. Also have you seen this video of him saying nice things angrily? Love. It.
- The self-aware humor. This film knows that it’s a sequel repeating much of the plot of the first film, but it also knows that you know that, and that’s where the real fun comes in. There are several mentions of how sequels are never better than the original. The film laughs about that and so do we. It’s all very clever, very fun, and very good-natured. Oh, and be sure to stick around for the credits, which take making fun of sequels to a whole new level.
The Low Notes:
- Try as directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller might, I enjoyed it a teensy bit less than the original. I don’t know if I can put the reason into words. It simply doesn’t seem to feel as fresh and new, y’know? Maybe I’m just getting burned out on sequels.
- The villain isn’t as fun. Peter Stormare is okay as the mysterious “Ghost,” but Rob Riggle owns 21 Jump Street (though Riggle does have a great cameo in this film). Another villain comes into play that is a bit more fun and interesting, but I still prefer Riggle’s Mr. Walters.
- So I guess you could say the plot is pretty much exactly the same as the first film…but since they let us know that will be happening from the get-go, I didn’t have a problem with it. But some people might, so I thought it worth mentioning.
The Staccato Version: I may have expressed that I didn’t enjoy this film as much as its predecessor, but that doesn’t at all mean I didn’t like it. In fact, I liked it quite a bit, and I think it’s right up there with Neighbors as one of the best comedies of the summer (so far). Hill and Tatum are excellent comedians, and the way this film pokes fun at itself is a riot. If you enjoyed 21 Jump Street, then I highly recommend this sequel.
My Grade: B+
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Synopsis: “When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace.” –www.imdb.com
The High Notes:
- The excellent voice cast returns! Jay Baruchel as Hiccup, Gerard Butler as Stoick, Craig Ferguson as Gobber, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller…Oh, and we’ve got some star-studded newbies, too: Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou, and Kit Harrington. It’s a great bunch of folks who clearly understand voice acting.
- Hiccup and Toothless. They are closer than ever, and it’s absolutely wonderful. There are far too many great moments between the two of them to name…but if I have to name one, I did quite enjoy the first scene of the film with them. They are just PRECIOUS.
- This feel like a natural, relevant sequel. Set five years after the previous film, it’s not only fun and interesting to see how the characters have aged, but it’s great to see how their lives have changed. This film doesn’t rehash its predecessor—it is a whole new, thoroughly imagined adventure that is just as entertaining as the first How to Train Your Dragon.
The Low Notes:
- I said this about 22 Jump Street, and, unfortunately, I’m saying it again: I didn’t enjoy this film quite as well as the original. I know I just said that it’s on par with the first one, and in many ways it is, but it’s hard to beat the magic of that original film. Because the first one is just…perfect (I’m a little obsessed with it). It’s an extremely worthy addition, but it isn’t better.
- Cate Blanchett’s accent in this film drove me a little crazy. It’s like this weird mix of Scottish and Irish and something else that I couldn’t place. Pick an accent and stick with it, girl.
- The direction the film decides to go with a certain character is…well, pretty disappointing. If you’ve seen the film, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. I can’t say anything more without major spoilers. Just trust me—it’s a letdown.
The Staccato Version: It may not match the magic of the first film, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 is still fantastic in its own right. The voice acting is great, the animation is gorgeous, the humor is spot-on, and, like the first film, it has surprisingly deep emotional resonance. If you’re a fan of How to Train Your Dragon, this is a must-see. So far, it’s probably the best family/kids’ film of the summer (and right up there with The Lego Movie for the best animated film of the year).
My Grade: A-