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22 Jump Street

How To Train Your Dragon 2

June 19, 2014

22 Jump Street ** • R

It’s always said that the law of diminishing returns dictates what can, generally speaking, be expected in terms of sequels. For my money, there has never been a more glaring example of this than the second installment of what is likely to become a regular franchise, 22 Jump Street. The laughs are sporadic, coming in fits and starts, and though the leads definitely have great chemistry, that chemistry can only take a film so far. You know you’re in trouble when a film’s end credits sequence turns out to be the most inspired thing in the whole package.

I’m not sure anyone was really expecting great things from the 2012 big screen adaptation of the eighties TV series 21 Jump Street. I certainly wasn’t and so I found myself pleasantly surprised at how well the film came off in spite of all the odds stacked against it. There were some inspired laughs from time to time and, as in this second installment, the great chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in the lead roles to embrace. The best you could say about the film was that it was a pleasing time filler and not much else.

And now, two years later, we have the inevitable next chapter where the action has been moved to a new precinct, 22 Jump Street (hence the film’s title). Here the jokes are watered down even farther than in the first film. The plot—courtesy of four writers, including Hill, himself—revolves around Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) attempting to break up a drug ring yet again.

Hill & Tatum in 22 Jump Street

Since it’s highly unlikely that anyone will believe the duo are high school seniors this time around, the two are given the assignment by Officer Dickson (Ice Cube, who provides the film with its funniest moments) to infiltrate a college instead. Should this come across as lazy writing to anyone reading this, just let me say that you’re on to something.

If it sounds like 22 Jump Street is a complete waste of time, I wouldn’t go that far. There are some gags that work rather effectively here and there and there’s a subplot involving a run in with the father of Schmidt’s love interest Maya (Amber Stevens) that’s certain to make even the most jaded filmgoer laugh out loud. Too often, though, the film misfires by recycling gags from the first film that weren’t that funny the first time and certainly aren’t going to change anyone’s minds the second time around. By the time the umpteenth reference to Schmidt’s age is uttered, viewers’ eyes will be rolling around like marbles in their collective heads.

As I mentioned earlier, the funniest thing in the picture is the end credits sequence, which depicts some of the duo’s future assignments (23 Jump Street, etc.). That, indeed, made me laugh out loud and I have no doubt that other audience members will feel the same. It’s the kind of inspired writing the film could certainly have used more of.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 • PG ***

By JOCELYN NOVECK

AP National Writer

You thought it was tricky to train a dragon?

It’s even trickier to take a much-admired animated film and make a sequel that feels satisfying and worthwhile. And it’s harder still to balance the competing needs of stretching the story in new directions but retaining the guiding spirit of the original enough to make fans happy.

It’s nice to be able to report that How to Train Your Dragon 2, written and directed by Dean DeBlois, does all that tricky stuff pretty darned well. And you’ll be happily surprised at the new twists it takes—sort of like getting an unexpected second candy bar in the vending machine. How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn’t play it safe, and that’s why it’s the rare sequel that doesn’t feel somewhat stale.

The story returns us to Berk, where our young Viking hero, Hiccup (again voiced by Jay Baruchel), lives and frolics with his devoted dragon, Toothless, whom he befriended in the first movie, with momentous ramifications for human-dragon relations. Five years have passed, and now Berk is a virtual playground for dragons and Vikings alike.

An amusing opening sequence shows the new pursuit of dragon-racing, a game that vaguely resembles Quidditch. And adjustments have been made to enhance dragon-human coexistence: for example, an aqueduct system, to quickly put out those pesky dragon-breath fires.

How To Train Your Dragon 2

Hiccup, though, isn’t into the games—he’s attracted to the beautiful skies, and spends his time exploring them, aboard Toothless, adding to the map he’s making of the world. His first scene of airborne frolic with Toothless is absolutely beautiful, and a sign of the visual delights to come.

Hiccup’s restless nature, though, is at odds with the aspirations of his burly father, Stoick the Vast (a sweetly gruff Gerard Butler), who wants Hiccup to take up new responsibilities. But Hiccup doesn’t feel leadership is really his thing. That’s what he tells spunky Astrid (America Ferrera, back from the first film), who is now his girlfriend, as well as a fellow explorer. (Other famous returning voices are Jonah Hill as Snotlout and Kristen Wiig as Ruffnut.)

One day Hiccup and Astrid make an ominous discovery: A trapper’s fort. Eret, son of Eret (Kit Harington) is cocky and ambitious. But his boss? He’s evil. That would be Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), a vicious villain who’s building a dragon army. Hiccup resolves to stop him.

And someone else, he learns—a mysterious figure in the skies—is also fighting Drago. Her name is Valka, and she is, shockingly, none other than Hiccup’s mother, long presumed dead. In fact, Valka—voiced by Cate Blanchett in an elegant, otherworldly accent—has spent these long years saving dragons. The scene in which she shows him the fantastic oasis where these rescued dragons live—a tropical wonderland inside a giant ice formation—is a marvel of color and inventive design, probably the prettiest scene in the film.

For a while, it seems like a perfect family reunion. But happiness is short-lived. Valka doesn’t believe, as her family does, that dragons can live with humans, humans can be too cruel. And Drago, with his violent plans, is proving her right.

Without giving away too much, this is where the film travels into darker areas than its predecessor, displaying an admirable maturity. Many animated tales involve dashing acts of bravery, but rarely do they show the possible tragic consequences of such acts. Many tears will be shed over the scene where Hiccup learns that bad things can happen to good people.

And there’s another lesson here, too: People—or creatures—who love you sometimes can still hurt you. Relationships have their limits. Animated films for kids don’t routinely address such matters. Kudos to the creators here, who took a terrific first film and made a sequel that, both visually and thematically, lives up to that promise.

How to Train Your Dragon 2, a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG. Three stars out of four.

 

 

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X-Men: Days Of Future Past Maleficent

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A Haunted House 2 & Heaven Is For Real

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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