Friday, June 20, 2014

"22 Jump Street" (2014)

Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and Ice Cube
Written by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Rated R - Violence, strong language, drug use, sexual references
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Trailer (red band)

Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are back on the streets, trying to infiltrate a drug operation run by a major player named Ghost (Peter Stormare) that uses encoded messages in online college lecture videos. Unfortunately, Ghost escapes their bust and the deputy chief (Nick Offerman) decides to reassign the two back to the Jump Street undercover unit, now located at another, larger abandoned church across the street from their old HQ.

Once again under the command of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), Jenko and Schmidt are ordered to go undercover at the local university to root out the source of another dangerous synthetic drug. Posing, again, as brothers, even using the same cover names as their high school adventure, the two enroll at college and almost immediately find themselves in the same shit, different day.

Continually ordered to merely do what they did before, the two cops find themselves unable to crack the case. Worse, Jenko has begun to bond with the quarterback of the school's football team, causing stress on his partnership with Schmidt. Schmidt, meanwhile, has fallen for Maya (Amber Stevens) and run afoul of her acidic roommate Mercedes (Jillian Bell) and her father... Captain Dickson.

But the boys are back at it, with a bigger budget and bigger stakes. Jump Street is on the case.

2012's "21 Jump Street" film took everyone by surprise, even me. I spent $6 on a matinee showing on a lark, thinking that even if it stank it was only $6 and a couple hours on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I ended up loving it, and being very surprised at the comedic talents of Channing Tatum.

2014's "22 Jump Street" is a worthy sequel, funny on both its own merits and for how it constantly pokes fun at itself and sequels in general. Jenko and Schmidt are ordered, time and again, explicitly, to "just do what you did last time." The dialogue continually references how people just expect success from staying in your comfort zone, with Jenko and Schmidt growing ever more confused as to why it isn't working.

Of course, the film is also hilarious just in general, though that's after a bit of a shaky start. One of the key reasons why this works is, once again, the wonderful chemistry between Hill and Tatum. Hill, as he often is, plays Schmidt as intellectually competent but also insecure and socially awkward. Watching him stumble through attempts at romance with Amber Stevens' Maya is painfully funny, especially a lengthy rambling speech about how he loves to spend time alone with himself.

But once again, many of the film's funniest moments belong to Channing Tatum, who plays up Jenko's kind-hearted idiocy for all it's worth. He's so dumb he can't even come up with the word "library" during an investigative epiphany ("bookplace!"). Tatum has so, so many great lines in this film that leave the audience howling. By the time we get to the movie's absurd Spring Break climax, the jokes are coming so fast that they're getting lost in the laughter.

The relationship between Jenko and Schmidt is still the heart of the film, and the script uses rote conversations out of any number of romance films for comedy that ends up being funny but also somehow rather sweet. One scene involves Jenko and Schmidt talking about "investigating other people" is played like a break-up while their eventual reunion is full of jokes referencing "one-time-only" hookups between exes.

Also consistently hilarious is Jillian Bell as Mercedes, who unleashes string after string of droll insults on Hill's Schmidt, and nearly every one of them is a howler. Ice Cube's jokes tend to be rather obvious, but he's definitely having fun over-playing the "angry black captain" stereotype. A potentially fun cameo appearance by Queen Latifah as his wife is ruined, however, in one of the film's flatter jokes, of which there are a few sprinkled here or there (mostly in the first half). Other cameos fare better, including bit parts for people like Patton Oswalt and Seth Rogen.

Still, this is a film that's clearly having fun at its own expense. Constant jabs at sequels and franchise merchandising are made, and for good measure a few more lobbed at the original "21 Jump Street" TV series. The film opens with a ridiculous "previously on..." recap of the first film, and its end credits are a riotous montage that you shouldn't skip.

There's a sense of familiarity that runs through the entire proceeding, but that's also part of the joke. But "22 Jump Street" is full of running gags that pay off, one-liners that will leave you in stitches, and a streak of endearment for the bromance between its main characters.

See Also
21 Jump Street (2012)