This weekend sees the release of two major sequels. 22 Jump Street and How to Train Your Dragon 2 couldn’t be any different from each other. They are made for completely different audiences. Instead of going head to head with each other, the question is whether these sequels compare with the surprisingly great originals.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The first How to Train Your Dragon movie came out of nowhere. Typically, I don’t expect Dreamworks to ever make a high caliber animated movie, but it surpassed the quality of many Pixar movies. (Writers note: I’m not what you’d call a Pixar fan)
The second Dragon movie picks up five years after the first adventures of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless. Hiccup is still the antithesis of what his brutish dad, Stoic (Gerard Butler), wants him to become. Hiccup has become preoccupied by discovering the lands outside the Isle of Berk. Very early on, he realizes that an old enemy of his father, Drogo (Djimon Hounsou) is sailing to Berk with his dragon army in tow. In an early scuffle, Hiccup is captured by a mysterious dragon master that reveals herself to be his mother. As Hiccup struggles to make sense of this, Drogo gets closer to his goal of commanding every living dragon and ruling the realm.
This movie starts into the adventure within the first few minutes. We already had an entire first movie to set up the environment and the characters and this movie picks it up without missing a beat.
Even though I liked the first movie, I haven’t gone back to revisit it. This sequel manages to outdo the the original in nearly every way. It has more adventure, emotion and wonder as well. The animation is fantastic. Even if there were no story here, it would be worth seeing this for the beautiful visuals and soundtrack (which is remarkable) alone.
Thankfully, there is a story. Even though there are two major battle scenes that take up a fair amount of time, they still manage to make time to craft a very sweet story of family, lost love and living up to your true calling. The addition of Hiccup’s mom (voiced by Cate Blanchett) is anything but cliche. As noted, Hiccup takes after her, despite her absence in his life. Hiccup’s family also consists of Toothless, who is a great character on its own. Much of the humor in this movie happens in the background as the dragons communicate with each other.
This may sound crazy, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 is Dreamworks’ Lion King. This is the peak of Dreamworks animated movies and somehow surpasses the original.
Far too often, a below-average animated movie is released and it makes a billion dollars simply because there is no competition in the family film market. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is going to do gangbusters at the box office and, finally, I can get behind the deserved success of a kids movie.
22 Jump Street
21 Jump Street worked for all the reasons it shouldn’t have. First off, it was a big screen remake of a random ’80s Fox show that very few people remembered. Second, (you’ve gotta call ITT Tech) writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller were changing the seriously heavy tone of the show into a Jonah Hill-type comedy. And lastly, it was a comedy starring charisma-free Channing Tatum. Each of those aspects somehow made the movie into a surprisingly great action-comedy.
And now, we have the sequel, 22 Jump Street. It’s a known fact that comedy sequels are just a rehash on the original. This movie plays on that in several instances, and often just tells you that it’s literally following the same path as the first movie. This sequel mutliplies the meta of the first movie by 11. Not only do they make fun of themselves, but of every sequel. (Bigger budget, louder and more of what audiences liked the first time).
This time around, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are sent to investigate drug deals at a state college. The friendship of this partnership is tested when Jenko aligns himself with players on the football team. Schmidt, on the other hand, makes nice with a bohemian college girl. The bromance between the two guys gets progressively worse and they lose direction in their case. Because this is an action movie sequel, it all ends in car chases, gun fights and explosions.
This movie works because everyone is in on the tired sequel joke. The end credits, possibly the funniest five minutes of the movie, showcase just how ridiculous and commercialized franchises become when the first movie takes off financially.
The great comedic chemistry of Hill and Tatum sells the movie. I’m not a particular fan of either, but together they are able to win me over. Tatum’s character becomes enamored with college life stating, “I’m the first person in my family to pretend to go to college.” He joins the school’s football team and the accompanying frat. That’s where the movie gets a little dry. 21 Jump Street worked because Jenko and Schmidt were placed in bizarro roles: Tatum with the science crowd and Hill with the jocks.
22 Jump Street mocks every comedy and action sequel before it. I’m looking at you Hangover 2. In the most self-referential way possible, they admit they’re doing the same thing they did in the first movie because that’s what fans want. Thankfully, before the repeated formula gets tired, they veer into another direction. This movie pats itself on the back frequently, which would normally upset me, but I was laughing too much to stay angry at it.
22 Jump Street does not have the surprising quality of the original, nor is it as good. However, it will keep you laughing throughout. If you liked the first one, definitely see this.