22 Jump Street (D). Mercy sakes alive, I saw this movie a week ago and I’m just now getting around to reviewing it? This won’t be easy, because 22 Jump Street was not really designed to be a memorable movie-going experience. If I had to guess, I’d say it was really designed to hoover up lots of dollars out of the wallets of average joes like me who enjoyed 21 Jump Street decently well. Anyway, IMDb.com is helping me remember that in this sequel, goofball cop partners Schmidt (Jonah Hill, This Is the End) and Jenko (Channing Tatum, Side Effects) go undercover, posing as college students in order to find and bust the supplier of a new and dangerous drug. They embrace their secret identities a little too thoroughly, causing a rift between them that they really need to heal before the climactic bust. It’s pretty much same as the first movie, only not very funny. Most of the laughs come from a palpably miserable college student named Mercedes (Jillian Bell, The Master), who does a couple of funny extended riffs (a la Melissa McCarthy) on how Schmidt looks way too old to be a college student. And Ice Cube (Three Kings) was pretty funny as the perpetually-angry police captain. He probably had to have that scowl surgically removed after this shoot was over.
The Movie Snob finally makes it back to the movies.
The Lego Movie (B-). This movie is getting high marks from the critics, but I just can’t go better than “pretty good.” It’s an animated film about a world made of Legos—a world of bland conformity ruled by the Big Brother-like President Business (voice of Will Ferrell, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby). But there is a prophecy that an ordinary Lego person will rise up and break Business’s stranglehold on Legoland, and it looks like The Chosen One may be an ordinary construction worker named Emmet (voice of Chris Pratt, her). His potential chosenness is discovered by a nonconformist chick named Wyldstyle (voice of Elizabeth Banks, Definitely, Maybe), who recruits him to join some sort of rebellion against Business and his main henchman, Bad Cop (voice of Liam Neeson, The Phantom Menace). The movie has plenty of pluses. The animation can be very striking, some of the humor is pretty good, and it is fun to pick out all the famous vocal talent at work, including Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), Will Arnett (TV’s Arrested Development), Jonah Hill (This Is the End), Alison Brie (TV’s Community), and many more. On the down side, as in many regular action movies, many of the action scenes moved so fast in places that I just gave up trying to figure out what was going on. It started to feel a little long after a while, and I didn’t think the climactic ending was all that great. Still, I give the film makers credit for trying something reasonably fresh and original. Oh, and the theme song “Everything Is Awesome” really is kind of awesome.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s Apocalyptic offering is profane, narcissistic, campy, and yes, funny. For me, it succeeded best as a campy horror flick. The premise is simple: James Baruchel visits his buddy Rogen in Hollywood and the two attend a party hosted by James Franco. All the actors play themselves. Also attending the party are: Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Paul Rudd, David Krumholtz, Aziz Ansari, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kevin Hart, Martin Starr and Emma Watson. The Apocalypse happens during the party. Some people are immediately sucked up to Heaven in a tunnel of blue light; others fall into a crevice that opens up in front of Franco’s house. The rest (all male with the exception of Emma Watson for a short time in a funny ax wielding performance) are left to navigate the post-Apocalyptic world complete with strange anatomically (enhanced) correct monsters as well as limited food, water and resources. The actors make fun of themselves but primarily the humor is pure frat boy (read: pot jokes, sex jokes, flatulence jokes, masturbation jokes) and the movie drags a bit. Confession: I suspect you will find this movie more funny than I did if you are up on all the roles these actors have played. The ending is bizarre–in a “we-didn’t-know-how-to-end-the-movie” kind of way. The suspense is well timed. This movie deserves its hard R rating. Don’t take your mom or your children!
Cyrus (B-). This is an odd little movie. The premise is simple. Sad sack divorced guy John (John C. Reilly, Chicago) starts dating attractive Molly (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler). They get along great, but the fly in the ointment is Molly’s oddly close relationship with her 21-year-old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill, Get Him to the Greek), who still lives at home. You could take this set-up over the top and wind up with a comedy along the lines of Stepbrothers (which also starred Reilly). Or you could make Cyrus totally unbalanced and make some sort of Psycho-type flick out of it. But Mark and Jay Duplass, the directors of Cyrus, play it straight — Cyrus is maladjusted but he’s not crazy, and his relationship with his mom is weird but not perversely so. I liked it well enough, and I certainly wanted to see how things were going to turn out.
Get Him to the Greek (D). I know, I should have listened to That Guy Named David and skipped this movie. But I saw a decent review. Then I read that it features Rose Byrne (I Capture the Castle) as a pop diva, and I kind of like her. So I gave it a shot. To be sure, I did laugh a few times. But the film is wildly uneven in tone. The comic side involves the trials and travails of a nerdy record-company employee (Jonah Hill, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) as he tries to escort a washed-up British rock star (Russell Brand, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) from London to L.A. within 72 hours (in time for a big comeback concert). But there is a lot of somber, dark stuff about drug addiction and romantic betrayal too, which makes you not want to laugh when the movie tries to turn funny again. Also, like most or all of these Judd Apatow productions, this movie is stuffed to the gills with vulgar language and sexual perversions of various kinds, so probably no one really ought to watch it. Unlike That Guy Named David, though, I did like Sean Combs as the over-the-top record-company president or whatever he was. I take it Mr. Combs is a person of some note in the music industry in real life?
Maybe I just don’t like British comedians. No, that can’t be it, because I enjoy John Oliver (from the Jon Stewart Show) and have laughed occasionally at Monte Python. Okay, maybe I just don’t like Russell Brand. Yeah, that’s probably it. Oh, and I’m not a big fan of that Jonah Hill kid either. And adding Puff Daddy to the ensemble really didn’t do it for me. My wife told me after the movie that she was tempted to just walk out around 30 minutes before the asinine conclusion. I wish we would have. I understand the idea was to try to capture a little of what resonated with everyone in The Hangover (which I thoroughly enjoyed); however, this one missed the mark for me. I just don’t find Russell Brand very funny. And considering the whole movie revolved around him trying to be funny, I would say that probably had a bit of role in what I didn’t like. So, the movie sucked. Don’t see it. Instead, I recommend watching The Hangover again.
Superbad (D+). Am I just a puritan, or have movies become seriously deranged when it comes to bad language and blatant sexual content? There is a decent story buried in this movie, under many layers of garbage. Seth (Jonah Hill, Hail, Caesar!) and Evan (Michael Cera, Juno) are best friends. They are also high-school seniors on the verge of graduating and going their separate ways, Evan to Dartmouth and Seth to some state school. They are not very popular, but they get invited to a party and promise in return to supply some alcohol. They also hope to “score” with two girls in particular, or at least Seth does; Evan actually seems to want to date the object of his desire in a more traditionally romantic fashion. But getting the alcohol turns into a quest of Odyssean proportions, which the movie uses nicely to expose the strengths and weaknesses of the boys’ friendship. But the good stuff is buried under so much foul language and unnecessary crap that I just couldn’t enjoy it. I could blame it my being almost 40, but I choose to blame the filmmakers.