Butler County Times Gazette
  • Movie review: ‘22 Jump Street’ does it again, even better

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  • We – and when I say we, I’m talking about film critics and movie fans – were caught completely off guard a couple of years back when “21 Jump Street” made a successful transition from little screen to big screen. It got great reviews and it made lots of money. That kind of thing doesn’t happen very often to TV shows that are turned into movies. But it was smart and stupid, hip and outlandish, and as a bonus it was as action-packed as it was funny, all the while defying the conventions of your typical cop-buddy movie.
    So how do you follow that up? Well, if you’re co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, you take a break from live-action craziness and make “The LEGO Movie,” which was even crazier, but featured plastic characters. Then you again team with the same two lead stars and make “21 Jump Street” all over again, but you ratchet it up a few notches, so it’s smarter and stupider and hipper and more outlandish. What about being action-packed and funny? Racheted up!
    “22 Jump Street” is a perfect sequel, in that it takes every element of its predecessor and makes it better. It also regularly makes fun of itself. You can be sure of that from the opening frame, which blurts out in “24”-like glory, “Previously on ‘21 Jump Street,’” then proceeds to fire off quick clips from the first film, before plopping our two undercover “high school” heroes Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) into more traditional undercover work – trying to break up a stolen exotic animals ring.
    Short story: They botch it, are immediately sent to their superior officer and are ordered to “go back and do what you do.” Translation: Report to Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who’s headquartered in the former Korean church at 21 Jump Street. No, wait, hold that. HQ has moved over to the larger Vietnamese church at 22 Jump Street. But, in the words of the ever-angry Captain Dickson, “It’s the same case! Do the same thing!”
    No, not quite the same. They’re again assigned to mix in with a school’s population in order to find the supplier of a new designer drug, this one nicknamed why-phy, which initially makes its user very focused (good for students), then turns them into a party animal (also “good” for students). But they’ve “graduated” to a college locale rather than a high school.
    The film takes and provides great pleasure in making it obvious that these two guys would never pass as college students (Hill is 30, Tatum is 34), and in pointing out the differences between the two characters. Hill’s Schmidt is drawn to the campus art crowd, while Tatum’s Jenko immediately heads to the frat pack; Schmidt is smart and out of shape, but Jenko is, ummm, not so smart, and can likely play any sport, very well. As actors, Hill is naturally funny, and Tatum is self-deprecatingly hilarious.
    Page 2 of 2 - The side plots that accompany their search for the drug supplier include Jenko finding a new buddy in the football-mad Zook (Wyatt Russell), and Schmidt meeting up with a possible love interest in co-ed Maya (Amber Stevens). Nice touch: Maya’s dorm room has posters of Picasso (well, she is an art student) and Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh (who wrote the film’s score).
    But there’s not much time to focus on such details, as the directors keep a raucousness going, one that they made work in “21 Jump Street,” perfected in “The LEGO Movie,” and make shine in this one. Oh, there are niggling little clichés and there’s pointless mayhem in a silly car chase. But there are also spot-on scene-stealing turns by Ice Cube and by Patton Oswalt as a psychology professor, wild sight gags that comfortably mix with subtle sight gags, a great Cate Blanchett joke, an “Annie Hall” reference (think lobsters), a couple of very bizarre (and truly insane) fistfights happening simultaneously near the end, and a magical revelatory moment, in the parents weekend sequence, during which every single member of the audience will react as one – laughing, loudly.
    In an example of saving the best for last, please take this advice: When the movie ends, don’t jump up and go. The closing credits present viewers with such an entertaining set of conclusions, nobody watching will know who made or who was in the movie; they’ll be too busy lapping up what’s going on visually to pay attention to any names.
    22 JUMP STREET
    Written by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman; directed by Phil Lord, Chris Miller
    With Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
    Rated R

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