“It's never as good the second time.” So we're reminded repeatedly by nearly every cast member in “22 Jump Street,” the sequel to “21 Jump Street,” itself a reworking of a musty ol' IP that surprised everyone with its sharp wit and spiffy performances.
This second chapter wastes no time in hoisting its banner: this will be the most “meta” movie ever made short of the work of Zucker-Abrams-Zucker or Mel Brooks. “Oh, that's so needlessly expensive!” is a frequent comment, a jape at the studio's decision to throw money at a known property rather than to invest in a new idea. Yes, this movie has a story, but it is such a blatant retread of the first one that the film will practically mock you if you pay too much attention to the plot. But that's what's up top. The real story – and it is shocking how well it works – is seeing the bromance between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum get tested as the pair bring their undercover routine from high school to college. They go through the motions of a police investigation, but “22 Jump Street” is really about exploring male friendship.
Well, that and jokes. There are plenty of jokes. From remarking that their captain's new digs look like “a cube of ice” (he is played by Ice Cube) to cars zipping in an under-cranked chase in front of the “Benjamin Hill Film Studies Building,” this movie is a zing-a-minute bombardment from Hill, Tatum and a slew of supporting players. New faces of note include Jillian Bell as a deadpan schoolmate who is relentless in her verbal abuse (a recurring gag – Hill and Tatum really, really don't look 19 years old) and the Lucas Brothers, a pair of perma-stoned twins who finish one another's sentences. These new characters plus the continual reminder not to spend any energy whatsoever on trying to decipher the plot make for an extremely breezy, agreeable moviegoing experience.
This deftness, however, does make for something of a light experience. Also, there is a surprising lack of visual pop to the movie – which is a letdown considering directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (“Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs,” “The LEGO Movie”) have such a visual flair. Indeed, their gift for high fructose montage only comes into play during the film's soon-to-be-world-famous end credits sequence – which is essentially the world's most awesome YouTube supercut. (I'm not spoiling the specifics in this review – you'll find out soon enough.)
Still, “22 Jump Street” is a success, as there is a little good ol' fashioned “heart” beneath its post-modern veneer. While heavy on the homo-eroticism yuks, Hill and Tatum's BFF routine, as described through a yin-yang motif, is disarmingly sweet. When one has to root around the other's scrotal area for a stashed grenade and it becomes a giggle-tickle fest (whilst hanging from a helicopter) one can't help but feel a sense of giddy joy. This is the least essential of Miller & Lord's work (and, yes, their antic high/low humor is in a class by itself right now) but it is certainly worth catching.
SCORE: 8.0 / 10