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22 JUMP STREET (2014) review

June 13, 2014

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written by: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman

produced by: Neal H. Moritz, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum

directed by: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

rating: R (for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence)

runtime: 112 min.

U.S. release date: June 13, 2014

Going in the way back machine all the way to the ancient times of…..2012, “21 Jump Street” was one of the biggest, most pleasant surprises I can remember in theaters in recent years. It was genuinely funny, mixing smart and stupid humor. Raking in over $200 million in theaters, the flick ended on a positive note, even hinting at a tweaked sequel. And here we sit, with the much-anticipated sequel “22 Jump Street”.

Having pulled off a successful bust with the 21 Jump Street program, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) have been thrown into another undercover program, but it’s far from what they thought they’d be moving onto.  After one particularly badly executed drug bust at the Port of L.A., they’re called in for another transfer. The quasi-bumbling duo is being sent back to school, Metro State College, where a student who was high on a new synthetic drug fell off the roof of a building on campus. The drug is still relatively contained on the campus though, but the police aren’t sure where it is coming from or who the dealers and suppliers are. Enter Schmidt and Jenko enrolling as students to investigate and see what they can find. They both remember though how rough the 21 Jump Street program was at times. Can they work together to get the job done….again?

 

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Okay, now don’t judge me here too harshly. From directors  Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, “22” is very, very smart (and stupid at the same time) because of its self-conscious qualities. Theaters seem to be overwhelmed with sequels, movies that become inherently generic and at times, painful to watch. The potential is certainly here for those qualities, but all those pratfalls are mostly avoided. As Schmidt and Jenko head to the new program offices — not a Korean church anymore, but a Vietnamese church — they see the construction of a new building at 23 Jump Street. They banter back and forth, saying “We’ll probably be there next year at this rate.” It’s little things like this that go a long way. This is a comedy that seems to know exactly what’s it is doing and intends to stick to the formula.

Two scenes with that premise especially stand out. Given their mission by Deputy Chief Hardy (the always hilarious and underplayed Nick Offerman), Schmidt and Jenko are told to literally do the same thing they did the first time around. Jenko hints they should try and burst through personal ceilings, but Hardy isn’t having it. Do The Same Thing. In other words, don’t mess with the winning formula that worked so well. The same for Ice Cube, returning as Captain Dickson and given more to do this time around with a great twist near the halfway point. Dickson implores his clueless duo with increasing frustration “Find the dealer. Find the supplier.” If you’re going to make a sequel, follow the formula, throw in a tweak here and there and let the talented cast do their thing. In that sense, “22” is able to effortlessly blend that stupid and physical humor with some subtle, underplayed and smart jabs at the film industry.

 

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Enough so-called “analysis” though, the movie rides on the shoulders of stars Tatum and Hill, one of those perfect Odd Couple pairings that just works. The original “Jump Street” went a long way to bringing me around concerning Tatum, and that continues here. He’s shown he can act in a role here and there, but this guy is meant to do comedy. He brings a natural, likable quality to the screen. Tatum and Hill pick things up where they left it with ease, a star pairing that screams on-screen chemistry. They have a great give and take, back and forth that carries ’22’ through some of its dumber moments. Their friendship is genuine, and it’s put to the test here. Tatum’s Jenko falls right in with the football/frat crowd, embracing all the craziness of college while Schmidt struggles to fit in, kinda finding a group with the more artsy crowd, enjoying sitting around, discussing social issues while drinking wine. It’s just hard to beat these two stars, making it look easy again.

As for the supporting parts, Offerman makes the most of his appearance while Ice Cube NAILS his far-bigger part as the increasingly frustrated Captain. Peter Stormare plays Ghost, a high-profile drug supplier Jenko and Schmidt keep running into. As for the students in question as possible suspects/dealers, look for Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell, the Lucas brothers (several good running bits for the twins) and  Jimmy Tantro. There are also uncredited cameos from Dave Franco and Rob Riggle, both reprising their roles from the first movie.

I didn’t love this comedy sequel, but I did like it a lot. The story isn’t as pointed here, losing its rhythm at times in the second half as the boys head to Spring Break to save the day. It gets a little more action-heavy which isn’t the issue, just that it comes out of nowhere so we can see some Spring Break hijinks. Still, the movie itself is a winner, entertaining throughout as Jenko and Schmidt find all college hast to offer. Their scene where they show us their dorm possessions especially rings true, again in self-conscious, stylish fashion. And while the high movie is good, the funniest parts come in the credits as the potential what-ifs of the series are presented, Seth Rogen and Bill Hader making worthwhile cameos.

Look, it’s a funny movie. If you liked the first one, you’re going to like this one. Channing Tatum is dreamy….um, I mean…really funny, and he and Hill are meant for each other. An easy, entertaining movie to recommend.

 

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RATING: ***

 

 

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