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Thursday, June 12, 2014

22 Jump Street Review: Many Funny Parts But Original Is Better

The insanely funny 22 Jump Street has its many moments, but just falls behind its slightly better original.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in 2012 transformed a long-sleeping (and frankly boring) television series into a hilarious piece of comedy, demonstrating that nearly everything has a second life. Their follow-up 22 Jump Street is almost as funny as the original, but that doesn't mean we like it any less.

Based almost entirely around the premise that our heroes Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) must do EXACTLY the same thing that they did in 21 Jump Street, they're set out to impersonate college students looking for a drug supplier. Their captain (Ice Cube) literally commands them: "Do the same thing as last time. Exactly the same thing." Soon, they're doing just that, partying at frat houses with Schmidt screwing women and Jenko acting as the star WR on the college's football team. But their relationship soon hits the skids, filled with enough sexual innuendo to float a battleship of gay. As the inevitable third act shooting-chasing hero stuff arrives, our duo find themselves grenading helicopters, punching women, and uttering clichés as ridiculous as the raucous Spring Break where the drugs are being distributed.

Having already hit paydirt in 2014 with SJF favorite The LEGO Movie, Lord and Miller cleverly continue the mockery by making the film self-aware of its sequel nature. “It’s always worse the second time around — a slow, painful unraveling,” someone utters to the duo and you know they're talking about the nature of sequels, not about their actual jobs. Sure, it's irony made for 12-year-olds, but it works really well for a laugh. These guys get modern commentary really well, willing to involve any character for a laugh, whether it's Schmidt's Walk of Shame back to his dorm room after hooking up with (Amber Stevens), or terrific post-credits ending of never-ending sequels and actor contract disputes, set in every conceivable location and environment.. Literally, they do about 42 of these before the credits really take off.

Hill and Tatum are dopey, stupid, ignorant cops that are one step away from losing their jobs, but the two carry off the comedy extremely well. I go back and forth on whether this is Hill's show or Tatum's, as the brawny lead usually stars in more serious affair, making his performance that much more enjoyable. But Hill really is the spark, sending Tatum and villain Jillian Bell into the comedy stratosphere - Bell is particularly funny as the deadpan supplier, at once leaning in for a kiss and then punching or shooting at Hill the next. This sort of interplay does make the beginning a little too long, and there's portions throughout where our creators should have edited the scene a bit. But, the result is never too distracting nor torpedoes the scene, due entirely to the self-aware nature of 22. Much like Muppets Most Wanted - which relies on the same silly premise - even the most overacted and predictable of scenes is instantly written off.

22 Jump Street is nothing short of targeted destabilization in many parts, especially when you consider the self-mockery that's going on throughout the picture. But it works on so many levels, even though there's just too many ad-libbed scenes that go on for just a little too long to push it past the original. It's likely that no one in the audience will care, as their non-stop laughter will probably make it the top movie of the week and could ultimately rule as the top comedy of the year. For now, take our word for it: this one's a killer cop keeper.

22 Jump Street is rated R for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence and has a runtime of 112 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125. Please leave a comment.


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