Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
Rating: 4 out of 5 Lamborghini posters. This sequel is wonderfully and satisfyingly self-reflexive and referential. Its keen understanding of itself is its greatest strength; this sequel knows its own potential blunders and either avoids them or unabashedly embraces them, resulting in a hilarious and action-packed sequel that makes so many jokes about being “exactly like the first time” that it does actually subvert its own formula in certain ways while trying also to abide by it in others, and it therefore succeeds at being bigger and crazier than the first film, though for me personally, it was exactly just as funny and not necessarily more so.
I make this last claim only because much of the early buzz surrounding the movie seemed to suggest that by building off of what made the first film do great, this film ended up being even better. I like both films equally, I think, but will admit that this film is all the more overt and obnoxious about what it is and what it is making fun of, and that does create a whole separate, additional source of comedy that wasn’t as pronounced in the first movie. This sequel really does find our protagonists Schmidt and Jenko going to college, working undercover again to find the dealer and supplier of a new drug called WhyPhy (which stands for Work Hard? Yes. Party Hard? Yes).
Unlike their redo of high school, their college experience plays out as you may expect it to– with Schmidt feeling left out and alone (and hanging out with the art kids) and Jenko fitting into the frat/football culture on campus. I think their lover’s tryst of sorts, their bromance on the rocks, was probably my least favorite aspect of the film– it created plenty of laughs, but it was also the only portion of the film that did feel like a reinforcement of the first film’s formula, merely with the roles reversed. Then again, their relationship is even stronger at the start and end of this film, and their chemistry is once again perfect and hilarious, possibly even more so than in the first (Tatum in particular seems to have finally grown more confident in his comedy skills, exhibiting a cranked up charisma that is more impressive and enjoyable to watch than any of his stunts or physical feats or attributes). It might just be personal preference, then, and my true complaint might simply be that I enjoy watching them be funny together more than I enjoyed them being funny separately. But as they even say in the movie, their friction does create one awesome comedic fire.
So, for fans of the first film, this sequel far from disappoints. It certainly met my high expectations, and it is more or less non-stop funny. One of my favorite scenes, seemingly another standard in the formula, would be the “tripping” scene, when Schmidt and Jenko take WhyPhy unknowingly; this scene is admittedly way more over the top and therefore even funnier than its counterpart in the first movie. Another stroke of brilliance comes in the credit sequence, which once more exaggeratedly mocks the idea of action movie franchises (as if having a television-style recap at the start of the film weren’t enough to set the sarcastic tone). The film is full of gags, chases, surprises, references and, of course, laughs. In a way, I don’t want this to be the last we see of this unlikely duo, but I do wonder if extending the parody any further would be defeating the purpose just a little bit. As it stands now though, both installments are examples of smart, well-acted and entertaining genre bending, genre blending and above all, genre bashing. Blockbusters have never been so self-aware– or so fun.