REVIEW: The Lego Movie

31 07 2014

Back in 2012, “Zero Dark Thirty” gave audiences a pulse-pounding conclusions as it showed SEAL Team 6’s bold mission to kill Osama bin Laden in stunning detail.  Yet even as gripping as that was, I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit when I saw who they cast as the finger behind the trigger: Chris Pratt, who I knew and loved as Andy Dwyer (and his FBI alter ego Burt Macklin) on the TV comedy “Parks & Recreation.”

Well, as it turns out, Kathryn Bigelow was as right about Pratt as an action star as she was about Jeremy Renner as a fine dramatic actor.  And now it’s Pratt who’s laughing all the way to the bank.  “The Lego Movie” proves that Pratt doesn’t even have to be present in the flesh to lead a movie towards some very fun adventure.

Pratt is like the world’s oldest 7-year-old, a lovable, innocent kid that you can’t help but root for because he reminds you of all the naive optimism of a simpler state of mind.  When his plastic Lego teddy bear of a character, Emmet Brickowoski, chants the film’s theme “Everything Is Awesome,” it’s hard not to smile a little bit.  He’s not just singing from a place of pure naïveté like Selena Gomez on “Barney,” but also from a position of contagious optimism that makes Emmet quite irresistible.

Thankfully, the writing/directing dynamic duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (they who blessed us with the gift of “21 Jump Street“) matches Pratt’s enthusiasm throughout “The Lego Movie.”  They bring a boundless imagination to the project, resembling the kind of creativity that Legos themselves spark in children all over the world.  What they ultimately construct is wild, wacky, and quite inspired. Read the rest of this entry »

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REVIEW: 22 Jump Street

11 06 2014

The archetypal model for the comedy sequel can be summed up in one line from “The Hangover Part II,” perhaps one of the most disparaged to date: “It happened again.”  Comedies, for whatever reason, seem to recycle their material with a particularly accelerated velocity.

22 Jump Street” essentially takes the model of the sequels to “The Hangover” but makes it not just tolerable but also enjoyable by injecting a level of self-awareness akin to only “This is The End.”  The framework of Michael Bacall’s script, co-written with Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman (with story by Jonah Hill), merely inverts “21 Jump Street” and swaps out college for high school.

This time, Channing Tatum’s Jenko gets to ride atop the social order of Metro City State, immediately accepted by the jocks and gaining an inroad for the all-important fraternity bid.  Jonah Hill’s Schmidt, on the other hand, gets caught up in tricky collegiate sexual politics and experiences the isolation that often comes with being transplanted into a sprawling campus. And more or less, the events play out just like they did in high school.

In some ways, the similarity is frustrating, but it also rings true to life itself.  I’m approaching my senior year in college, and I’ve learned that the same narratives that I thought people had outgrown in high school have tended to repeat themselves.  We all rush so quickly to the next stage of our lives that the reflection necessary to gain maturity seems lost sometimes.

That’s probably not what the filmmakers of “22 Jump Street” had in mind, especially given all their winks and nods to the very nature of the events taking place in a movie – in particular a sequel.  This meta humor is quite clever, and the tongue-in-cheek sensibility pervading the film makes the shameless repetition worth another spin.

Yet while this newfangled irony gives the film some justification for existing, it ultimately does not power the movie.  That job is still carried out by the strengths of the 2012 reboot: the spot-on portrayals of social orders, the nuanced dialogue, and the relationship between the leads.  Rather than going bigger or broader like “The Hangover” series, “22 Jump Street” dives deeper into its own world and pulls out rich observations.

Read the rest of this entry »