Friday, July 04, 2014

22 Jump Street / *** (R)

Schmidt: Jonah Hill
Janko: Channing Tatum
The Ghost: Peter Stromare
Zook: Wyatt Russell
Maya: Amber Stevens
Mercedes: Jillian Bell
Captain Dickson: Ice Cube

Columbia Pictures and MGM present a film directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. Written by Michael Bacall and Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman from a story by Bacall & Jonah Hill. Based on the television series “21 Jump Street” created by Patrick Hasburgh & Stephen J. Canell. Running time: 112 min. Rated R (for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence).

I didn’t see the Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill starring television film remake “21 Jump Street” in theaters. The whole thing sounded absurd to me, and I wasn’t even a fan of the television series. I did, however, catch it on home video and found it to be hysterically funny and a genuine surprise. Much of its success hinged on the notion that the filmmakers realized how ridiculous it seemed to mount a big screen adaptation of a nearly forgotten television series, which was a great offender of the Hollywood cliché of having adults portray high school kids, with a couple of stars that were not known to be taken seriously and certainly weren’t teenagers.

Now comes the inevitable sequel. In a bout of cleverness typical of Hollywood sequel naming these days, instead of calling it “21 Jump Street 2” we get “22 Jump Street”—title that really doesn’t make much sense since the original title was a reference to the address where a special narcotics police division that focused on high school based crimes was located. The numeral change explained in one of those typical lame Hollywood exposition monologues and knows it. The Vietnamese group that originally owned the building wanted it back. Luckily another, almost identical building abandoned by a Korean group is located just across the street at 22 Jump Street. Ha. Ha. Ho Hum.

In the same way the original movie made fun of the fact that this was a Hollywood remake of a television series, this one makes fun of the fact that it is a sequel of a Hollywood remake of a television series. The movie begins with a “previously on” montage of scenes from the first movie. Then during the set up for the new mission, Schmidt & Janko’s superiors keep referring to how the precinct decided to up the budget for everything on this new mission, because for some reason everything has to be bigger and better the second time around. Ice Cube, playing the two detectives’ captain, shows them his new office that looks like a big… well, it’s clear, translucent and cube shaped. Get it?

Anyway, not that the plot really matters, but this time around Schmidt (Hill) and Janko (Tatum) are headed to college to investigate the death of a female student who was using a new designer drug engineered to help students study for four hours straight and then party for four hours straight. In the first film their high school mission was kind of a do-over for Schmidt, who’d had a terrible high school experience as a kid, while Janko was forced to realize how terrible high school was for most kids now that he was no longer the star jock of the school. Now, the tables are turned as Schmidt finds that Janko is much more suited to the college life than himself. Janko makes friends easily and leaves Schmidt in the dust. Meanwhile, Janko’s new fraternity friends may just well be the people responsible for the distribution of the drugs on campus.

Frankly, the plot is pretty thin, but the filmmakers realize that and aren’t nearly as interested in exploiting their plot for laughs as they are in exploiting the clichés of buddy cop movies and sequels. It’s really no surprise that the men responsible for both “Jump Street” movies are also the filmmakers responsible for “The Lego Movie” from earlier this year or the original “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. Despite those films being aimed at families and the “Jump Street” movies aimed squarely in the adult gross-out comedy direction, all four of these films percolate with irreverent humor and sparkling originality. “22” isn’t quite as good as “21”, but it is still filled with laughs, including some that you’ll feel bad about if you stop and think about it.

Be sure to stick around for the end credits, which are filled with cookies imagining the continuation of the franchise through an unending line of sequels starting with “23 Jump Street” and going from there. Most of the laughs come in the form of poster art and titles they imagine for the further adventures of Schmidt & Janko, but they also give us a few scenes from the imagined franchise, including one movie when Hill is replaced by Seth Rogen as Schmidt because of a contract dispute. It’s pretty funny stuff.

Warning! This is the Red Band trailer and contains Ice Cube dropping the "F" bomb quite a bit. 

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