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Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back together and again back to school working undercover. That isn’t the only couple getting back on this genre-parody cake, we also have directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller having followed up their sly and self-referential franchise reboot of 21 Jump Street movie with an inevitable sequel that is a sly and self-referencing commentary on the inevitability of sequels.
22 Jump Street movie is a reunion for a second round of poorly camouflaged undercover antics that the movie swaps high school for college and prom for spring break. Still, otherwise sticks snugly to the prior movie’s winning formula of mining the resultant doublings and repetitions for maximum absurdist hilarity. Given both Hill and Tatum’s ever-increasing zeitgeist value, the movie should have little trouble besting its predecessor’s $200 million worldwide haul.
Much as 22 Jump Street movie managed to simultaneously tip its hat and thumb its nose at its 1980s source material, the 22 Jump Street movie wears its sequel-ness on its sleeve from an opening recap to its inspired closing montage of concepts for future “Jump Street” sequels. In between, screenwriter Michael Bacall and co-writers Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman ư pick up exactly where 21 Jump Street left off with officers Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) heading off to college on a new assignment for their beleaguered deputy chief (Nick Offerman).
Jenko and Schmidt find themselves back on Jump Street after letting a wanted kingpin (Peter Stormare) slip through their hands. They are back under the thumb of the dyspeptic Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube), and once again donning their alter egos of brothers Brad and Doug McQuaid to infiltrate a suspected drug-trafficking ring at a local university. If high school had been an unexpected season in hell for Jenko and a boon for the nerdy Schmidt, college life turns out to be very much inverse. Proud to be the first person in his family “to pretend to go to college”, Jenko quickly emerges as a prime catch for the MC State football team. Not only that, he also get into an elite fraternity house. The house president is Zook (Wyatt Russell) who may just be the dealer Dickson is trying to bust, but Jenko isn’t so sure and become BFF with Zook. In a meanwhile, Schmidt finds himself all out of love and hopelessly lost without his erstwhile wingman until he falls for beautiful art major Maya (Amber Stevens).
The college scenes are filled with hit-and-miss with a loosely stitched-together improve-comedy, However, 22 Jump Street hits far more often than it misses, and even when it misses by a mile, the effort is so delightfully zany that it’s hard not to give Lord and Miller an “A” for effort. The writers have fleshed out the sequel with a smattering of new characters that give several bright young comic performers a chance to shine, especially half-black, half-Chinese twins Keith and Kenny Lucas. Lord and Miller did a good job in balancing their smarty pants meta-humor with go-for-broke pratfalls. They also know how to sell a joke visually better than most contemporary comedy directors, and that makes 22 Jump Street rife with delightful throwaway visual gags.