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Reeling it in: 'Jump Street' sequel in on the joke

Posted: June 25, 2014 - 5:39pm  |  Updated: June 26, 2014 - 8:01am
This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jonah Hill, from left, Ice Cube, and Channing Tatum in Columbia Pictures' "22 Jump Street." (AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Glen Wilson)  AP
AP
This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jonah Hill, from left, Ice Cube, and Channing Tatum in Columbia Pictures' "22 Jump Street." (AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Glen Wilson)

“22 Jump Street”

Columbia Pictures

1 hour, 52 minutes

Comic actor Nick Offerman sums up the concept of “22 Jump Street” perfectly in one of the first scenes of the film: “When the ‘Jump Street’ reboot was first proposed, everyone, myself included, expected it to be a huge failure. Much to the surprise of all, it was a hit, and now the department wants to do it again, just with much more money.”

He’s talking about the undercover narcotics operations, of course, but really he’s talking about the movie. This central conceit, this self-aware running joke is funny and clever for much of the film’s runtime, but like any other abstract concept that gets pounded into you, it does get old after a while.

If you missed the predecessor to this film, “21 Jump Street,” you’re missing a treat. Channing Tatum plays Jenko to Justin Hill’s Schmidt, two mismatched police buddies whose main skill seems to be acting juvenile. Naturally, they go undercover as high school students in order to take down an illicit drug ring.

This time around, Jenko and Schmidt are going to college. And, in order to maintain the continuity that the police force sees as success, they go undercover with the exact same back stories and identities, despite those being blown at the end of the last film.

The emotional conflicts are the same as they were previously, though reversed here, with Schmidt being the awkward one this time around, and Jenko getting to be the successful popular one. Even some of the sequences are similar, i.e., the freaking out on the crazy designer drug scene.

Far from being lazy writing, however, “22 Jump Street” is doing everything it can to skewer the very concept of a sequel. It’s a brilliant move, making the movie almost impossible to criticize. When Schmidt’s art major girlfriend turns in a flat performance, you have to wonder, is it just because she’s not a good actress or that the writing isn’t very good, or is the flaw intentional because sequels tend to be shoddy rehashes? Hard to say.

Is the inclusion of Queen Latifah in a cameo that seems to have no importance or weight ironic stunt casting or actual stunt casting? I can’t tell.

Rarely do you go to see a big budget, mainstream comedy that is this self-aware and screwball. It’s good stuff, and very funny, but does get a little overbearing at times. The number of times they refer to their current assignment in the terms of a sequel starts to wear. OK — I get it. You the filmmakers are aware of how silly the original was, how unlikely it was to be a massive hit, and how silly sequels in general are. You can stop hitting me over the head with it.

I can’t complain too much about the filmmakers, though. Chris Miller and Phil Lord are the amazing creative team behind “The Lego Movie,” “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” and the original “21 Jump Street.” These guys are able to take bizarre, non-sensical concepts and spin them into pure gold. I don’t know that I would suggest “22” is gold, but it is a heck of a lot of fun.

One tip, stay for the credits, where the stars and their director lampoon the entire idea of a whole series of “Jump Street” films.

“22 Jump Street” is rated R for language, comedic violence, and mild sexual situations.

 

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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