The first one was bad. So bad a friend and I had made up a drinking game while we watched the movie. We didn’t have to sit and think about it. It practically wrote itself.
Looking at the principles involved, this had all of the earmarks of bad cinema. Jon Chu was directing. He’s got the Justin Bieber documentary, two Step Up films, and his student short film2. I’ve tried to watch one of those Step Up movies; didn’t last 15 minutes. The writing team also has more hits than misses. Their early success, Monsters Inc., had seven credited writers. If you can pick out the parts of that movie they wrote… congratulations. Their only “hit” was Zombieland, and it did well for a comedy. Pulled in $100m world-wide in 11 weeks. Compare that to Ted, which did $500m world-wide in 17 weeks.
My single question: How is it that the reshoots they did for the first twenty minutes are better than the rest of the entire movie?
This inconsistency bothers me.
The re-shoots highlight the Johnson-Tatum bromance, and it was enough to earn a light-hearted buy-in from me. It wasn’t Stifler and The Rock comedy from The Rundown, but I cared. And I knew it was coming, but seeing Duke3 die in an explosion was surprising with the character development they’d done. I felt cheated. He was walking eye candy in the first movie. Then he did Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street and seemed to get comfortable on camera. Here, he was working hard in a campy, poorly written movie and making it enjoyable. Then they pull the plug.
They ripped my buy-in out with the close-up of Duke getting extra-tasty-crispy.
Moving along, the beginning and most of the middle was enjoyable… if one checks their brain at the concession stand. When someone tells an enlisted guy to take his next promotion to be saluted, you know reality was never in the same country 4. Then there’s the thing where Roadblock is in charge of a military officer (Lady Jaye as a Captain) and a Warrant Officer (Flint). The first act of the movie doesn’t take itself seriously, which is the right move.
For me, the “Ninja Story” was a big bag of boring that spills over into the third act. Where the other story thread hams it up, everyone in this arc is serious. It was a conscious story telling decision that breaks the consistency of the narrative. Having the RZA be the voice for this section was poor. Maybe if the dialog was written better it wouldn’t have been so atrocious. Every time RZA’s voice over rolled off the sound system, I cringed. Compared to his performance, Russell Crowe 5 was competent in Les Misérables. The disappointing part is that RZA can speak, and speak well. He’s a successful rapper!
Starting in on the accent abuse, there’s Ray Stevenson as Firefly. His Irish accent bled into his southern(?)6 accent. It kind of sounds like he wanted Nic Cage from Con Air. There are actors that can speak in different accents. Andrew Garfield is a good example. From his lack of accent in The Social Network to his accent when discussing The Amazing Spider-Man movie, it’s like night and day. It sounded like Stevenson was trying too hard with his lines. Maybe he should have hung out with Matthew McConaughey for a bit and tried to pick up a bit of his accent as a Texan. I could see if the accent was done for a tongue-in-cheek comedy, but it was jarring more than it was funny.
I wish I cared about DJ Contra as Flint. The only thing he added was whining, filling Tatum’s role, and objectifying Adrian Paliekci.
The last major beef I had with this movie was the fist fight with guns at the end. I get that Dwayne Johnson needs to be physically challenged because of his size. Ray Stevenson can do that. But couldn’t it have been handled better? There are plenty of examples of solid Johnson fights in movies. The Rundown has a great fight with the locals. The Fast Five fight with Vin Diesel is pretty epic. I would have really wanted to see something like the Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale fight from Reign of Fire.
Bottom line. I enjoyed 2/3rds of this flick because it was fun. In the end though, it couldn’t decide what genre it wanted. And it showed in the scattered dialog and plot points. Much more watchable than the first movie.
Drinking Game Rules
Sadly, many of the original rules still apply here. I’ll try to put these in as close to chronological order as I can remember. Assist from Paj at Tortilla Chips and Milk and another friend who doesn’t have a blog coming up with some of these. Some are incredibly meta.
- A G.I. Joe toy vehicle appears on-screen – 1 Drink
- Bad CGI – 1 Drink
- Gratuitous use of Bullet Time slow-mo – 1 Drink
- Any time you wonder just how much Duke likes Roadblock – 1 Drink
- The tracer bullet sound pops up7. You’ll know it when you hear it. – 1 Drink
- If you freak out when Snake Eyes talks – 1 Drink
- Any time you forget who it is DJ Contra is supposed to be – 1 Drink
- When you laugh for any reason during the Zartan world leader extortion scene – 2 Drinks8
- Any time you’re caught shaking your head during a scene – 1 Drink
- Last person to say a too-famous-to-be-in-this-movie tagline when they appear on screen – 1 Drink
Got any suggestions? Add ’em in the comments.