22 Jump Street (Phil Lord/Christopher Miller, 2014)
22 Jump Street is a mix of many things: bromance, satire, sequel, college party movie; a little bit of this, a little bit of that; some funny parts, some not so funny. Most of all, the parts that are funny go on for too long, like a “Saturday Night Live” skit that doesn’t know when to quit. You’ll have a good time watching it – in some spots – but you might also groan in agony at the senseless idiocy of it all. I’d say it’s a decent home rental/streaming choice, but not something worth spending money on to see in a theater. If you must see something new and commercial this week, try How to Train Your Dragon 2, instead, which at least has the virtue of being cinematic, and gaining from the on-screen viewing experience.
21 Jump Street – directed by the same two guys responsible for its sequel and released in 2012 – was a sweet-natured update of the late 1980s TV show of the same name (which made a star of Johnny Depp). It featured Jonah Hill (Monyeball) and Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) as former-high-school-rivals-turned-cops who, in their early 20s now, get sent back to high school in and undercover narcotics operation. The movie got a lot of mileage out of the fact that, through a clerical error, jocky Tatum and nerdy Hill ended up switching places in the social hierarchy of the school. It was a fair amount of fun, had two appealing stars, and best of all, didn’t take itself too seriously.
The new film also doesn’t take itself to seriously, but nor does it make any kind of effort at plot or character development. Oh, make no mistake, there’s dramatic conflict and all that, but it’s mostly recycled from the previous film’s set-up. That said, the stars are again appealing, and the movie did make me laugh in certain places.
In the new adventure, Hill and Tatum are again sent back to school as undercover agents, but this time it’s college. The movie has a lot of post-modern fun with the idea of sequels and their penchant for doing the same thing over again on a bigger budget, but that initial comedic set-up is repeated (literally, repeated in the dialogue, as in “this time it’s more expensive”) a little too often to remain funny in the retelling. As for the rest, we know they’ll bag their guy, and we know they’ll resolve their disagreements. We hope we’ll do more than chuckle as they do so.
There are two moments in the film that did make me laugh out loud: the first is when Jonah Hill, trying to fit in at a poetry slam, does a very funny parody of a bad live-mic poem; the second is in the final credits, when the filmmakers take the meta-notion of the film as a sequel about sequels to such an extreme that the idea became funny again. So if you make it all the way to the end, you should definitely stay for the credits.
Unlike the film, I will try not to overstay my welcome . . .