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'22 Jump Street': Top-Drawer Laughs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kurt Loder, Creative Syndicate   
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 22:52

PHOTO BY: Glen Wilson

Schmidt (HILL) and Jenko (TATUM) with Dickson (ICE CUBE) confront the bad guys at Gringo Pendejo's

Very cute. "22 Jump Street" isn't just an improbable sequel to the smash hit "21 Jump Street" of two years ago; it's virtually the same darn story. Oh, there are some piffling changes. This time, instead of being sent back to high school to bust a student drug ring, undercover cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) have graduated to busting a college drug ring. ("I'm the first person in my family to pretend to go to college," says the lovably dense Jenko.) Otherwise, though, we're in familiar territory here.

Part of the movie's pleasure is its self-referentiality. Schmidt and Jenko have been given this very similar second assignment because their first exploit was so successful that higher-ups have allotted larger resources for another go-round -- which is, of course, the bottom-line logic of just about every Hollywood sequel that's ever cluttered the multiplexes. But the picture is more than a wink-fest. It's often blazingly funny. Part of the credit for this must be given to scripters Michael Bacall and Oren Uziel and to returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who'll soon be returning to their fledgling "Lego Movie" franchise).

But the indispensable heart of the enterprise continues to be the unlikely teaming of Hill and Tatum. They're so perfectly matched that it's tempting to compare them to famous comedy duos of the past -- Laurel and Hardy, say, or Abbott and Costello.

But where the old two-man template called for one partner to be a goofy simpleton and the other basically a straight man, Hill and Tatum can each take on both of those roles, expanding the possibility (and almost achieving the actuality) of nonstop laughs.

The movie begins with Schmidt and Jenko screwing up an unrelated undercover assignment, attempting to pose as Mexican drug thugs in order to infiltrate a gang of actual Mexican drug thugs. This goes about as well as you'd expect, and soon they're fleeing down the freeway atop a speeding truck (an action scene that's very funny in itself ). Then their boss, Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube), assigns them to enroll in the local college and root out the source of a mind-scrambling drug called WHYPHY, which has already claimed the life of a student, named Cynthia.

PHOTO BY: Glen Wilson.

Jonah Hill, left, and Channing Tatum in Columbia Pictures' "22 Jump Street."

Setting up shop as roommates, the boys get right to work. But their bond is soon tested. Hunky Jenko -- a guy so unsuited to intellectual pursuits that his eyes nearly cross every time he attempts to have a thought -- is more naturally drawn to a crew of frat boy jocks, headed by a fellow named Zook (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell). Meanwhile, Schmidt, much less naturally, manages to score with a pretty art student, named Maya (Amber Stevens), much to the acidulous disdain of her roommate, Mercedes (a terrifically sour Jillian Bell). Soon, Jenko has become a football hero, and Schmidt is socializing with the art crowd (all of whom drink merlot). But Schmidt resents Jenko's turning his back on their long relationship, and before long, his pouting drives Jenko to suggest they shift to "an open investigation." (Traditional buddy-cop bromance is one of the movie's central targets.)

There's no need to detail all the funny stuff here. We get some passing hilarity in a classroom encounter between the dull-witted Jenko and a very quick-witted history professor (played by Patton Oswalt, uncredited). And Schmidt has a showpiece moment at a student poetry slam, where he is encouraged to get up onstage and draws cheers with some impromptu lines of his own. ("Jesus died for our Cynthias!") I'm not sure it was necessary to take the boys down to Mexico for a spring break wrap-up (it makes the movie a little too long), but the picture ends on a triumphant note: a brilliant montage of previews for future "Jump Street" sequels -- dozens of them. But "22 Jump Street" is so skillfully wrought -- and Hill and Tatum so nuttily attuned -- you have to hope that no one involved will be moved to pursue an endless series of further installments. Really, this one should do it.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 23:00