‘I’ ON CULTURE
We are in a season of sequels, with new versions of Captain America, X-Men and Spider-Man out, and now there is a new superhero film, 22 Jump Street. What? You don’t think Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are real superheroes? Well, of course, you could have them as “chubby man” and “dim bulb man.” But what we do have is a sequel that is almost as good as the original. The jokes keep coming, and we all laugh even while knowing many are dumb.
And so what if it is almost exactly the same story as the first one? In that one, they went undercover in a high school to catch drug dealers. Here, they go after a dealer at a college. The other kids are older (which is lucky, because the two actors are getting old enough to have kids in high school themselves), so things get more frisky. OK, it is a formula, but one that works well.
The key seems to be that the filmmakers are smart enough to play with the concept. Time after time, they emphasize how similar the movie is to the first while ensuring there are enough twists to keep things going.
A student has died because of new designer drug called Whyphy, and our heroes are sent to investigate. But Schmidt and Jenko are developing relationship problems. At first, they keep up their talk of bromance, but the whole relationship begins falling apart soon after they arrive on campus. Of course, they are far too old, and several people make them as narcs immediately. But Jenko, following a lead, winds up becoming very close to football star Zook (Wyatt Russell). To emphasize the bond, the two cops wind up across the hall from a pair of twins, Kenny and Keith Yang, who continually finish each other’s sentences and say the same things in unison. Within a short time, Jenko and Zook are like that, and Schmidt feels left out. He winds up with the pretty Maya (Amber Stevens) and has a wonderful time celebrating his sexual relationship with everyone at police headquarters. That would turn out to be a mistake, one that leads to some very funny scenes.
But the two cops wind up clashing, even seeing a counselor who, naturally, when they talk about themselves as partners, assumes they are gay. And everything the pair does during that scene would support that theory.
What carries the movie is the quality of the performances. Somehow Hill and Tatum work as a “couple” — they are funny together and alone, despite their enormous physical differences. And they both know how to carry a funny scene. Hill is great as the introverted schlub who somehow functions even as a fish out of water, and Tatum renders the whole dumb jock character perfectly. Their relationship should not work at all, and the movie has fun examining the reasons it does. Even better, Hill is wonderful at bringing out all of the possible humor in Tatum’s idiocy.
Ice Cube is good as the overstressed Captain Dickson. He screams, yells and manages to elicit screams of laughter while doing so. Russell is funny as the goofy quarterback who becomes a Jenko clone. He makes the stereotype interesting. The twin brothers provide great laughs, particularly in a wonderfully tense climactic scene as they try to decide which one of them should be shot first. Expect to see them again. Jillian Bell, as Maya’s strange roommate, is particularly good. She is a master of timing while never cracking a smile. Her scenes with Hill are hysterical.
As noted above, there is a lot of repetition, but somehow the movie keeps the action and laughs coming. There are a few wild chases, a few fun set scenes that really poke fun at college stereotypes, and many surprises. Almost everyone manages to get in on providing laughs.
I enjoyed the film. While it is one of the summer tentpoles, films that are supposed to be sure things, it mines a rich comic vein. I laughed a lot during the film, and you probably will do so, as well.