[Screen It]

"22 JUMP STREET"
(2014) (Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action-Comedy: Two buddy cops go undercover on a college campus to bring down a crime ring.
PLOT:
Officers Schmidt (JONAH HILL) and Jenko (CHANNING TATUM) return as undercover cops working for a special program that infiltrates high schools and roots out criminal activity. Now deemed too old looking to pass as high school-age young males, the duo are assigned by Captain Dickson (ICE CUBE) to pose as college students at a local university to investigate the rise of a new drug called "WhyPhy." A young female student was believed killed because of the drug and Schmidt and Jenko are ordered to find the dealer.

Schmidt is surprised when Jenko immediately bonds with campus jocks Zook (WYATT RUSSELL) and Rooster (JIMMY TATRO). One of them even sports a tattoo seen in a grainy surveillance photo believed to feature the mysterious dealer. Jenko, though, starts to have too much fun playing on the college football team and lifting weights with the two suspects and tries to convince Schmidt and himself that they are not involved.

Meanwhile, Schmidt gets involved in a romance with pretty Art major Maya (AMBER STEVENS), who is now sharing a dorm room with Mercedes (JILLIAN BELL), the acerbic former roommate of the dead girl. Things become complicated when Schmidt follows a lead and discovers that the main supplier of WhyPhy on campus is a ruthless criminal named The Ghost (PETER STORMARE) who he and Jenko have had a run-in with in the past.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
The most immediate thing that people typically ask me after seeing a sequel, especially the second film in a series, is: "Is it as good as the first one?" And with "22 Jump Street," I can safely say ... "No, it isn't." It's funnier than the first one. It's zanier and crazier and the budget is bigger. But it's not better. That, of course, leads to the inevitable second question: "Well, is it at least worth paying to see?" And the answer to that is, "Absolutely!" But only if you were a fan of the first film and don't mind loads of profanity. If you are and if you don't, you will more than get your money's worth.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum re-team as mismatched buddy cops Schmidt and Jenko, respectively. The two form one of the best "bromances" in years, and their chemistry and byplay in this film remain its strongest selling point and the biggest reason to see it. Now too old to go undercover as high school students, Schmidt and Jenko are assigned to go undercover at a local college campus where a new designer drug known as WhyPhy is running rampant and has already claimed the life of one student.

Schmidt expects to be in his element at this institute of higher learning, but it is Jenko this time who becomes the big man on campus. He gets in good with Zook (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt and Goldie Hawn ... yeah, because life is just THAT fair), the college's stud quarterback who convinces Jenko to try out for the team. He then becomes the squad's star wide receiver and starts to lose his perspective when it looks like Zook and his fellow teammate, Rooster (Jimmy Tatro) are involved in the drug ring.

Schmidt, meanwhile, uses the opportunity to score with a pretty Art major named Maya (Amber Stevens), who is now living with the former roommate (Jillian Bell) of the dead girl. Who Maya's father turns out to be is one of the biggest laughs in recent months at the local cinema. And directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller mine this plot twist for all its worth.

Unlike the recent "Million Ways to Die in the West," the "Jump Street" sequel manages to stretch out both its plot and its wry commentary on movie conventions for a feature-length production. "22" is at its best when it is savaging the diminishing return movie sequels often deliver. There is a scene early on when Nick Offerman's Deputy Chief Hardy gives Jenko and Schmidt their new assignment and remarks about how no one thought the first "Jump Street" would work and now the Department (i.e. the studio) has decided to spend twice the money on the follow-up (i.e. sequel) and how the bosses (studio heads) are expecting twice the returns. To which Jenko and Schmidt both laugh off the stupidity of such a decision. There are numerous moments like that spread throughout, but never overdone.

As clever as those scenes are, though, there's no getting around how lazy the film is in other spots. Jenko and Schmidt never do any real investigating. Instead, plot turns happen only because the characters are in the right place at just the right time to hear a key piece of information. And Jenko and Schmidt just happen to meet everyone who will prove central to the final resolution on their first day on campus. In a confined high school setting, that is believable. On a sprawling campus, it strains credibility.

The inevitable climax happens during Spring Break (because every college football season bleeds into Spring Break, right? Wrong!) And wouldn't you know it? All of the key players Schmidt and Jenko met back at campus are all in close proximity to each other down in Florida even though there are students there literally from HUNDREDS of other colleges!

But this is one of those movies you forgive its plot holes and lazy scripting, because the laughs are so prevalent and the chemistry of the cast remains so spot-on. It also has the funniest closing credits since the original "Hangover." Oh and, yes, for those poor, pathetic souls who are wondering -- SPOILER ALERT -- there IS a Richard Grieco cameo. I give this a solid 6 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed June 10, 2014 / Posted June 13, 2014


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