’22 Jump Street,’ more of the same

“22 Jump Street” isn’t a very good movie. But it doesn’t promise to be anything other than exactly its predecessor: the 2012 buddy-cop comedy hit, “21 Jump Street.”

Screenplay writers Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman (along with story creators Bacall and Jonah Hill and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) know that sequels and remakes aren’t as good as the original. And “21 Jump Street” — which starred Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as young undercover cops infiltrating a high school drug bust — is a reboot of Stephen J. Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh’s 1987 to 1991 television series starring Johnny Depp as undercover Officer Tom Hanson.

That self awareness, though, makes the movie. “22 Jump Street” is at it’s best when pokes fun at itself.

“No one gave a shit about the ‘Jump Street’ reboot, but you got lucky,” said Deputy Chief Hardy (played by “Parks and Recreation’s” Nick Offerman). “Do the same thing as last time and everyone’s happy.”

That’s why, Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are back in the same worn-out roles, using the same undercover identities: brothers Dennis and Brad McQuaid. This time, they’re also college roomies at MC State, searching for the source of WHY-PHY (“Work Hard, Yes; Party Hard, Yes”), the drug that killed a college student.

Hill and Tatum resume their awkward bromance, but college tests their high school fling. Jenko begins an easy friendship with star quarterback Zook (Wyatt Hawn Russell). Schmidt bonds with art student Maya (Amber Stevens), Captain Dickson’s (Ice Cube) daughter.

The two break it off and get back together, even seeing a psychiatrist (Marc Evan Jackson) to discuss their relationship. Jenko claims Schmidt’s too clingy and weighing him down. Schmidt’s afraid of being alone. Bacall, Uziel and Rothman skillfully incorporate double entendres into this farce, capitalizing on Hill and Tatum’s chemistry and physical appearances. Hill’s the short, jealous, submissive partner while Tatum’s the gentleman — even offering to pay for Schmidt’s cab as he leaves a party early.

Directed by Lord and Miller (the duo who also brought you “The Lego Movie” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”), “22 Jump Street” is the product of a successful formulaic franchise (The first film made $35 million dollars during its opening weekend. The sequel made more than $60 million.). But even as you pay for their sequel, you don’t feel ripped off for seeing the same exact movie — not when you’re in on the joke.

“22 Jump Street” is directed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord and written by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman.


‘Sleepwalk With Me’: Living Your Dreams Not How They’re Cracked Up

Comedian Mike Birbiglia has a secret: he has REM behavior disorder, a sleep disorder where you act out your dreams in real life.

As one can imagine, this can become dangerous when you wake up to find yourself standing on a heater, or jumping out of a closed second-story motel window. As Dr. William C. Dement writes in his book, “The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night’s Sleep,” in extreme cases of REM behavior disorders, one might murder their loved ones while they sleep.

While Birbiglia has shared his secret in his book, “Sleepwalk With Me: And Other Painfully True Stories”; on the NPR’s documentary radio show “This American Life”; and on his stand-up comedy tours, his new film, “Sleepwalk With Me” — written by himself, his brother Joe Birbiglia, “This American Life” host Ira Glass, and the film’s co-director Seth Barrish — also retells his real life experiences.

Birbiglia acts himself, or Matt Pandamiglio, a butchering of his name, while he contemplates marriage with his longtime girlfriend, Abby (Lauren Ambrose), while simultaneously working as a bartender and a comedian. With the pressure to get married and have children, Birbiglia’s REM behavior disorder and sleepwalking gets worse — to the point where he can be found raiding the fridge at night or talking a shower while asleep.

Birbiglia is hardly the first person to get cold feet before marriage or to worry about hitting his thirties. Sondheim’s musical “Company” also features a bachelor in his thirties contemplating settling down while he watches all his friends’ relationships. After all, who can forget Raul Esparza‘s or Neil Patrick Harris’ performance as Bobby, singing “Being Alive,” a song with lines such as, “Someone to hold you too close/Someone to hurt you too deep/ Someone to sit in your chair/ To ruin your sleep.”

As Birbiglia says in his comedic act, “I don’t want to get married until I’m sure there’s nothing else good that can happen in my life.”

Well, as one can imagine, Birbiglia’s unique story, combined with its comedic potential, is poised for cheap laughs; however, it also provides commentary for a sad reality. His film resembles a cross between an extended 90-minute sitcom and an extended “This American Life” episode. Birbiglia resembles Jason Segel from “How I Met Your Mother” and “Freaks and Geeks” fame. Meanwhile, the segments about what it’s like to fall in love with his girlfriend and his sleep disorder are structured like different acts in a “This American Life” episode. As Birbiglia narrates his story while driving in the car, inviting the audience to “sleepwalk with him,” Birbiglia reveals honesty and tenderness, which the audience will remember even more than the film’s comedy.

“Sleepwalk With Me” is directed by Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish.

‘Death at a Funeral’: a comedy to watch

You know those horribly embarrassing family reunions where Murphy’s law works like a charm while everything else that can go wrong, will go wrong? Like having your first Thanksgiving dinner with your in-laws and forgetting to cook the turkey, Director Frank Oz’s film “Death at a Funeral” operates in that same dysfunctional atmosphere where — like a house precariously built with cards — the whole thing could collapse at any given moment. Although the ordeal is not so fun for the host, it’s fun to watch, remember and reminisce about.

“Death at a Funeral” is hosted by a Brit named Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen), one of the two sons of the late Edward (Gareth Milne). Daniel and his girlfriend Jane (Keeley Hawes) want to move into a flat together, but Daniel hasn’t put in the deposit for the apartment. When Daniel’s brother Robert (Rupert Graves), an accomplished novelist who lives in New York City, forgets to bring his half to pay for their father’s funeral, Daniel is saddled with not only his obligation to his girlfriend and family, but also with sponsoring the whole proper funeral.

However, bringing such a volatile cast who both love and cannot stand each other in such close proximity is like dropping a lit match next to a barrel of gasoline. Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan) is an old and irritable Ebenezer Scrooge in a wheelchair. Cousin Martha’s boyfriend Simon (Alan Tudyk) has an accidental encounter with Special-K (and not the cereal), and Martha (Daisy Donovan) is trying to keep him occupied and placated while he’s having hallucinations at the funeral. Cousin Troy (Kris Marshall) has a bottle of Ecstasy pills disguised in a Valium bottle that he keeps losing. And this stranger named Peter (Peter Dinklage) has a secret about Daniel’s father, which Daniel would very much like to keep under wraps.

With as much dramatic irony contained in Dean Craig’s screenplay as any Shakespearean play, you would expect flames and explosions as the characters tiptoe across a minefield, but the wit and comedic punches in the film are often quieter, like peeling the layers off an onion. It may sting and you may be crying tears of laughter, but the appeal and absolute genius of “Death at a Funeral” is well done. A funeral is so private and personal that viewers will feel like voyeurs as they gleefully watch the self-absorbed and human characters fall apart. Meanwhile, there’s a real cathartic element to the film where the blunders and tears are only funny until someone actually dies. And with a movie’s called “Death at a Funeral,” you can’t help but wonder who’s going to die.

“Death at a Funeral” was directed by Frank Oz and written by Dean Craig.

Jumping to the 21st Century: ’21 Jump Street’ is Comedic Genius

Two cops who pedal bicycles after a tough-looking biker gang of 1 percenters in the city park. Cops who don’t know how to recite the Miranda Rights word-for-word upon making their first arrest. Their only redeeming quality is that they look young, like they just got out of school (or in Channing Tatum’s character’s case, he looks like he might have flunked out a few years).

“21 Jump Street” is ridiculous, but that is part of the appeal. When reviving a classic late ’80s, early ’90s television series like “21 Jump Street” and adapting it to the silver screen in the twenty-first century, you have to update with the times. Sure, kids are still getting into booze, drugs, gangs and other shady business. But kids are also texting, YouTubing, Facebooking and plugging into the Twitterverse.

Michael Bacall’s screenplay adaption of Patrick Hasburg and Stephen J. Cannell’s television series canon features a new duo of awkward, bumbling cops going undercover in high schools: Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Tatum). Their challenges include blending into the new social hierarchy of modern day high school: one where the popular kids are gay, tolerable, accepting and environmentalists and the nerds are still the ones building rocket ships on the lawn.

Hill and Tatum have great chemistry and bromance together, striking an unlikely friendship. It’s comical watching Tatum cheerlead Hill’s character as he tries to overcome the physical obstacles of the police academy test while Hill tutors Tatum’s character on the written portion of the exam. In another scene the two are seen fingering each other’s mouths, trying to get each other to throw up in a bathroom stall.

Bacall’s script also does much to poke fun at the original TV series. The nondescript rundown chapel on Jump Street that was home base for the undercover program features a rather prominent Korean Jesus. Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who runs the undercover camp, isn’t subtle about why the crew is there: “You are here because you some Justin Beaver, Miley Cirus lookin’ muthas.”

And the best parts: Undercover Officer Tom Hanson (Johnny Depp) makes a cameo and the promise of a sequel.

“21 Jump Street” was produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The story was written by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill.