It’s extremely unlikely that Hollywood will abandon its addiction to sequels and remakes anytime soon — but just because the movie business is obsessed with regurgitation doesn’t mean the resulting productions have to be as cynical as the thinking behind them.
Critics say the two big sequels opening this weekend — “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and “22 Jump Street” — are not only among the best big-studio movies of the year so far, but also might be better than the first films in their franchises.
“22 Jump Street” was directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The pair have a knack for taking what sound like Hollywood’s most recognizably marketing-driven ideas and creating movies that are both well-reviewed (“22 Jump Street” has a Rotten Tomatoes average of 84 percent) and hugely popular (“The Lego Movie" grossed $462 million worldwide and "21 Jump Street" took in $201 million around the globe).
In the case of "21 Jump Street," which starred Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as undercover police officers who are a couple fries short of a Happy Meal, Lord said, "We came in with a very specific, dogmatic point of view that was, 'What if the twist on this movie is it's really good? What if people go in expecting to see a dumb comedy, and they come out going, 'Wow, that was actually a good movie!'"
Lord added: "We thought that the thing that would make you feel that way was if we told a compelling story about a relationship between two guys and how they solidified their friendship. In every case, the point of inspiration was not cynical. It was actually, really, almost unrealistically optimistic. 'The Lego Movie' was the same way."
Said Miller: "In the case of 'The Lego Movie,' we thought that was a way to make a really great Lego movie. I mean it's a toy that's about creativity, and there's a million possible ways that it could go. There's a crap, commercial sellout version of it that would not interest us at all, and so we thought, 'We're interested in it if you guys are willing to not have it feel like it's a big commercial coming from the Lego corporate offices.' Everyone was on board with it. It turns out that if you give them an opportunity to make a movie good, people will go with you, because good is commercial."
At the same time, the filmmakers are happy to poke fun at their job assignments: “22 Jump Street” concludes with a montage of potential sequels to follow, and while some of them may be hokum — the cops going to culinary school, for example — it’s very likely Lord and Miller will be involved in several more follow-ups. The two are now collaborating on two more Lego movies, and another sequel to their first feature, the animated “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”
“For having very commercial tastes [we] are trying to rail against over-commercialization at the same time,” Miller said. “In general we’re always trying to have our cake and eat it too.”