When I decided, at the dawn of 2013, to partake in The Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Initiative (watching every movie released in theaters featuring The Rock) I had no idea how unimaginably successful and undertaking it would become. How could I have? At one point I missed a call from an unknown number that I’m pretty sure was The Today Show.
The 2013 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Initiative didn’t demand a sequel. It didn’t have to. It was a given. There’s a number right there in the title, did you really think it wouldn’t steadily increase by increments of one?
Pre-production on The 2014 Initiative was strenuous. As New Year’s Eve 2013 approached prospective names were still being thrown about: Vin Diesel, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey. But it seemed impossible to find another actor with the annual prolificacy of Dwayne Johnson.
Finally, to much fanfare, The 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative was announced. An exciting prospect, but one that hasn’t quite panned out like the original.
Where the 2013D“TR”JI was top heavy and essentially finished by May, after roughly a movie a month, 2014 has thus far seen Tatum appear as the voice of a minor character in an animated movie and a guy with cat ears in a movie that got delayed until 2015. Which I’m still totally going to, Initiative be damned.
In summation, sequels are hard.
Tatum’s latest film, 22 Jump Street, doesn’t deny it. In fact, one of the film’s greatest strengths is wholeheartedly embracing the difficulty of the sequel and the slim likelihood of lightening striking twice.
When 21 Jump Street came out in 2012 no one could have predicted it would be as excellent as it turned out to be, due in no small part to the golden bromance between Tatum and Jonah Hill.
Like most great comedies, 21 Jump Street came out of nowhere. And like most great comedies a sequel, inspired or not, was inevitable.
Luckily, rather than literally retooling every single vaguely entertaining bit from the original, a ’la The Hangover Part II, 22 Jump Street opts for a different strategy. The film openly grapples with the creative suicide mission that is the comedy sequel. The balancing beam between doggedly retreading old gags and presenting new material that feels familiar enough to the world of the original film not to alienate fans is paper thing. But 22 Jump Street doesn’t hold its breath for that single perfect, surefooted moment of precise balance. Instead it focuses on the pursuit of simply not falling off the beam, knees wobbling and arms waving about wildly.
It’s impossible to overhype Tatum and Hill. At a certain point I just smiled like a giddy idiot simply because the two were on screen together. But what could have been a lackluster outing barely kept afloat by comedic chemistry is so much more than that because 22 Jump Street wasn’t content with phoning it in.
Maybe there’s hope for The 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative after all.
1. Did you go to college?
2. Have you ever thought Channing and Jonah might want a blogger friend who writes about movies and comic books? Like a Three Musketeers sort of thing?
3. Will you sign my petition to make 22 Jump Street a TV show?