Thursday, June 12, 2014

'22 Jump Street' -- more of the same

... and that's precisely what fans seem to want.
What to say about 22 Jump Street, a movie that has no business existing?

22 Jump Street, of course, is a sequel to 21 Jump Street, another movie that had no reason to exist -- but managed to be funny in a silly sort of way.

Maybe I've answered my own question: The movie exists so that a talented group of filmmakers can have some fun with an idea that has virtually no reason for being, other than to cash in on fondness for the first edition.

In its blatantly rowdy second helping, this Jump Street comedy provides another showcase for the ever-shlubby Jonah Hill and the ever-hunky Channing Tatum. They give us another round of mismatched cops in the middle of a bromance that flirts -- for comic effect -- with possible gayness in their buddy bonding.

Here, in fragmented form, is what I have to say about the whole thing:

-- I didn't find 22 Jump Street consistently hilarious, but audiences probably will. Look for the movie to kick box-office butt, even though its major innovation involves little more than promoting our hapless undercover cops from high school to college.

-- The movie's level of self-mockery extends through the closing credits. 22 Jump Street continuously lets us know that it's aware that it has no business existing, other than to repeat the formula that made the first movie successful.

At times, the characters even say their new adventure will be exactly like the previous one. It is: Our less-than-dynamic duo tries to catch drug dealers who operate on a college campus.

-- Tatum is funnier than Hill. As the dumber of this unlikely duo, Tatum proves more reliably amusing than Hill, who tends to be whiney and, at times, (heaven help us) sincere.

-- Directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, who did the original and who also directed the extremely popular Lego Movie, seem to believe that they can make the movie work with the kind of raunchy humor they brought to the first installment. Many will agree with this approach.

-- The MacGuffin here is a new drug called WhyPhy, but the plot is too preposterous even to recount.

-- Ice Cube again proves that an entire career can be constructed around a scowl. He plays the exasperated boss of the underground unit in which Hill's Schmidt and Tatum's Jenko work.

-- The supporting cast adds little, aside from the under-used Keith and Kenny Yang, real-life twins who do a great job of speaking in unison.

As for the rest: Amber Stevens plays an art major who's impressed by Schmidt's willingness to participate in a poetry slam. Wyatt Russell portrays Zook, the school quarterback who becomes best friends with Jenko, who fits surprisingly well into both football and frat life.

-- Yes, it's the old sitcom ploy of reversing a defining element from the first edition. Last time, Hill proved unexpectedly popular in high school: This time, Tatum finds himself surprisingly attuned to college life, presuming, of course, that your idea of college life centers on never opening a book.

-- Oops. I forgot to mention that Jillian Bell does good work as an offensively prudish student.

A movie such as 22 Jump Street can be judged in two ways: Against some defensible standard of humor and wit or against the standard that the movie's audience wants to see upheld.

By the second measure, 22 Jump Street delivers. Because nothing but the movie's overblown gunplay drove me crazy, I'm willing to leave it at that.

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