Saturday, June 14, 2014

Review: 22 Jump Street

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.
"22 Jump Street" is a movie that gets to have its cake and eat it too. It is, at once, a pretty decent sequel to 2012's adaptation of the popular 1980s TV show as well as a satire of sequels in general and Hollywood formula. There's also a long-running joke that the film's two lead cops, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, treat their work relationship as a romantic one that's mostly funny, even when it has been played out to maximum effect.

In the first film, Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) infiltrated a high school narcotics ring by posing as high school students. At the beginning of this film, they are called to their new headquarters - 22 Jump Street, located next to the old HQ that has now been repurposed as a Korean church - to, essentially, "do the same thing" again - but, this time, go undercover in college to break up a drug ring.

The joke that the sequel will essentially be entirely reworking the same formula over and over again is made clear pretty early and continuous references to unwarranted sequels are slyly worked in, especially during the first 30 minutes. The actors also take some digs at their own careers - Tatum, for example, suggests he be put on White House detail.

This is a pretty fun movie, especially for a summer tent pole picture. For starters, it's a comedy that actually produces some laughs. Hill's misbegotten participation in a slam poetry contest left me snickering for a good 10 minutes after the fact, while Tatum's misuse of the expression "carte blanche" is pretty classic.

The filmmakers - Phil Lord and Christopher Miller - play out an ongoing joke that Schmidt and Jenko's team work is similar to a relationship, complete with moping when one of them finds a new BFF at college, leading to the inevitable "should we be working with other people" question. But the film's poking fun at bromances is handled in a manner much gentler than other buddy movies - such as the gay panic of Michael Bay's "Bad Boys" movies - and, during a scene in which Schmidt and Jenko tangle with some drug dealers, Tatum's likable doofus, who has been taking human sexuality college courses in the film, chastises one of the villains for using a homophobic slur.

And be sure to stick around for the credit sequence, during which the futility of endless sequels is lampooned to great effect. "22 Jump Street" is a cut above the rest of this year's onslaught of summer movies. It's a lot more fun than your typical sequel, much to the credit of Hill and Tatum's repartee. It proves that overly recycled material can be given a fresh spin with the right talent involved.

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