The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


22 Jump Street

It took all of three seconds for 22 Jump Street to make me laugh. No sooner is the Columbia Pictures logo gone from the screen than we get a “Previously on 21 Jump Street” intro that recaps the events of the first movie just as a TV show would recap last week's episode. It's a sign of good things to come. Not only is this sequel every bit as funny as the original, it is even more inventive. Success apparently allowed everyone to feel comfortable going for bolder, crazier ideas this time around, and that approach pays off.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return as undercover cops Schmidt and Jenko. Their commanding officer, Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman), informs them that, due to the success of their first mission, he wants them to go on another. Even more importantly, he wants it to be exactly the same. (This is the first of many meta nods to sequel-dom.) The boys are then sent to college, where they must track down another drug dealer. But try as they might to keep everything the same, they simply can't. Jenko gels much better with the college lifestyle than his partner, even developing a competing “bromance” with a football player named Zook (Wyatt Russell). Schmidt, meanwhile, gets to woo a gorgeous coed, Maya (Amber Stevens). Their assignment eventually takes an unexpected turn that puts them in new territory and threatens to destroy their partnership.

21 Jump Street worked, in large part, because of the chemistry between Jonah Hill and the surprisingly hilarious Channing Tatum. That chemistry remains in full effect for 22 Jump Street. The two leads are clearly having a ball riffing together and playing off each other. Their comic timing is so in sync that they take tiny throwaway moments and wring big laughs from them. Hill and Tatum are also extremely generous, allowing the supporting actors to steal scenes. Ice Cube, returning as the head of the Jump Street program, gets one of the movie's biggest laughs, simply from a look he gives at a key moment. Jillian Bell (Workaholics) has several scenes as Maya's uber-sarcastic roommate that are pure gold, while Keith and Kenny Lucas are hysterical as the stoner twins who live across the hall from Schmidt and Jenko. They often speak in unison, then marvel at their own twin-ness.

What really makes 22 Jump Street special, though, is the sheer creativity employed by directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie). Working from a joke-packed screenplay by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman, they cram the film with as many self-referential gags about sequels as possible. Well aware that most follow-ups are letdowns, they continually remind you of this fact, all while making the rare sequel that isn't one. Little jokes are almost subliminally hidden in the margins, as well; pay close attention to all signs and building names for some great background bits. The creativity extends to the visuals. There's a delightfully insane sequence that uses the age-old split-screen technique to put Schmidt and Jenko in simultaneous, wildly contrasting drug trips. Even the end credits are ballsy, as 22 Jump Street spends several minutes essentially mocking itself in ruthless fashion. Here's some next-level comedy at its finest.

The plot is actually not bad, even though it's mostly an excuse to set up jokes. There are a couple of clever twists and turns. But more than anything, 22 Jump Street is about the laughs, and there are plenty of them. Instead of merely repeating the original – which the picture pretends to do – it expands on what we've already seen, taking everything a notch higher and going to even loopier places. You've got to respect that kind of ambition. 22 Jump Street is the sort of movie comedy we need more of. It's just terrific.

( 1/2 out of four)

22 Jump Street is rated R for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 52 minutes.

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