Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are producers on “22 Jump Street,” which, I guess, explains the large number of jokes about how much everything cost. At one point Hill actually says, “It’s way more expensive for no reason at all.”
I don’t know how much the movie cost to make, but the self-aware jokes did make me laugh even though “22” is essentially a remake of the first film, with a few more Laurel and Hardy slapstick gags and amped up explosions.
The “21 Jump Street” high school undercover cops Schmidt and Jenko (Hill and Tatum) are back, but this time they’re narco cops. That is until they botch an investigation into drug lord Ghost’s (Peter Stormare) operation. Their failure gets them demoted back to the 22 Jump Street (they moved across the road) program.
Jump Street’s Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) sends them undercover as unlikely brothers Brad and Doug McQuaid, to college to arrest the supplier of a drug named WHYPHY (WiFi). The bumbling, but self-confident duo infiltrates the college, but campus life—frat house parties, football and girls—threaten to blow apart their partnership. “Maybe we should investigate other people,” says Jenko, “sow our cop oats.”
“22 Jump Street’s” end credit sequence, which maps out the next sequels from number 3 to installment 43—they go to Beauty and Magic School among other places of higher learning— is probably the funniest part of the movie. Co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller—they also made “The Lego Movie”—expertly parody Hollywood’s obsession with grinding a good thing into the ground and grab a few laughs while they do it.
The stuff that comes before is amiable, relying on the Mutt and Jeff chemistry of the neurotic Hill and all-American Tatum for laughs. It’s boisterous and aims to please, but best of all are the self-referential jokes. By clowning around about the difficulty in making the sequel better than the original they’re winking at the audience, acknowledging that this is basically a spoof of Hollywood sequels. It’s meta and kind of brilliant.
It isn’t, however, a laugh a minute. Ill-timed jokes about Maya Angelou and Tracy Morgan are sore thumbs, while the bromance between Schmidt and Jenko is played out until it begins to feel like the punch line to a bad, politically incorrect gag.
Better are Tatum’s malapropisms. The dim-witted cop says, “I thought we had Cate Blanchett on this assignment,” when he means “carte blanche,” and confuses “anal” and “annal.” They’re easy jokes, but Channing milks laughs out of them.
There will likely be a “23 Jump Street”—the film shows us an under-construction condo at that address—which will hopefully have the same subversive sense of fun, but more actual jokes.