22 Jump Street
When "21 Jump Street" was released back in 2012, it became one of the most delightful surprises of that year; a hilariously inspired satirization of the popular procedural drama from the late 1980s that offered a fresh, idiosyncratic take on adapting a television show into a feature-length film. As someone who was completely unfamiliar with the series beforehand, the film made this particular critic bust a gut from laughing more times than he could count thanks to its sharp writing, inventive visual gags and the impeccable comic timing of its two stars.
Now, the cast and crew are back for "22 Jump Street," reuniting Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as the lovably dopey cops, Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko, who are forced to go undercover once again to take down yet another drug ring before their latest product causes any more widespread corruption and harm to America's youth. This sequel may not be as consistently funny as the original film (it relies far too heavily on an abundant amount of gay double-entendres which, for the most part, fall flat), but when the jokes land, they're downright hysterical, scoring some even bigger laughs than the brilliantly executed set pieces of the first installment.
This time, after failing to successfully transition into full-time police officers who handle the more dangerous crimes on the streets, Schmidt and Jenko are reassigned by their boss, Captain Dickson (the scene-stealing Ice Cube) to pose as college students and uncover the culprits who are selling a hot new drug known as WHYPHY (pronounced 'wi-fi'), which has been the cause of numerous crimes and absurdly dangerous highs. Goofy hijinks ensue, once again testing the limits of the plucky duo's bromance as they carry out their increasingly ridiculous investigation.
Not like the story matters much here, and one of the reasons why "22 Jump Street" is so endearing is that everyone involved (even the characters themselves) are fully conscious of the fact that they're in a rehash of the first film. It's the most uproariously meta mainstream sequel since "Scream 2," in which everyone is on the verge of breaking the fourth wall in nearly every scene. Self-awareness alone doesn't guarantee that the humor will be successful, though, and some of the freshness from the original has faded here in some aspects, but its lively, borderline anarchic spirit is still very much intact.
Most importantly, the chemistry between the two stars remains as strong as it was in the previous installment. Tatum, in particular, seems even more confident in his skills as a comic screen presence, and his puppy dog persona combined with his athletic physique is used to even stronger effect this time around. As for Hill, who's always been terrific at layering his cheerful dorkiness with a sincere sense of pathos ever since his breakout role in "Superbad," he's able to make Schmidt as equally charming and sympathetic as his beefcake partner. Even when the writing isn't as spot-on as it should be, the two of them have a fearless, go-for-broke style of energy that is truly admirable.
The same could be said for the supporting cast, who are all clearly having a lot of fun in this film as well. One sequence involving Captain Dickson at a buffet is played with such savagely comic vigor by Ice Cube that it had this critic nearly in tears, and is easily the funniest sequence of any comedy so far this year. There are also several chuckle-inducing surprise cameos that are perfectly sprinkled throughout the film's 112-minute runtime.
Directed once again by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who also made the wonderfully eccentric "The Lego Movie" that was released earlier this year, this talented duo proves that you can take even the most seemingly capitalist product and morph it into something refreshingly unique. The exhilarating pace never slows down with handfuls of jokes being delivered in rapid-fire fashion, proving Lord and Miller's skills to handle dialogue, referential gags and even some hilariously silly action sequences (one of the set-pieces in the film involves the characters in a high-speed pursuit and how they're attempting to be cautious drivers to prevent going over the film's budget). There are even some subtle jokes hidden within the frame, such as one instance in which a character is smoking a bong in the background of a climactic fist-fight for no reason at all.
"22 Jump Street" isn't a revolutionary piece of cinema by any means, but in terms of scoring big laughs when there just aren't that many good comedies these days, this wildly funny sequel is a total blast that's well-worth the price of admission.