Devin and I asked our friend Kevin Werner to rejoin us for a screening and discussion of “Hail, Caesar!” We enjoyed it, even if we weren’t quite sure and didn’t quite agree on what it all means.
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Earlier this year, the directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller tackled the perils of conformity and the joys of creativity in The Lego Movie, which took America by storm and became the year’s highest-grossing movie so far. Having previously adapted Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and revived 21 Jump Street for the big screen, Lord and Miller were no strangers to Hollywood success, but The Lego Movie elevated their profile to previously unthinkable heights.
22 Jump Street ought to do it again. It’s as funny as the original, with an extra layer of metacommentary on the inevitable fatigue and repetition that plagues most movie sequels. Better yet, the metacommentary exists not as a mere distraction from a dearth of originality, but rather a springboard from which new ideas emerge. The movie is about the hapless Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and the muscular Jenkoff (Channing Tatum) chasing their former glory and confronting the unusual nature of their relationship. As in the first movie, there are car chases, preposterous plot twists, romantic entanglements, professional jealousies, pop-culture references, celebrity cameos and tidy resolutions. Working from a script by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman, Lord and Miller manage to freshen this retread with self-awareness and a genuine layer of compassion.
The Lego Movie practices what it preaches: creativity, imagination, originality, distinctiveness and daring. That it accomplishes such feats while reinvigorating the endlessly profitable Lego brand and providing a showcase for famous actors in uncharacteristically self-deprecating guises and reaffirming that Phil Lord and Chris Miller are two of the most valuable assets to mainstream Hollywood filmmaking is nothing short of a miracle. The Lego Movie appeals directly to our most basic desires for boisterous spectacle without sacrificing intelligence, wit or pure sensational pleasure.