Tuesday, July 1, 2014
FILM REVIEW OF ''22 JUMP STREET" (2014)
The shenanigans are far more silly, and the pandemonium far more preposterous in the farcical “21 Jump Street” parody sequel “22 Jump Street” (*** OUT OF ****) co-starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Several actors from the original opus reprise their roles in this side-splitting sequel. Mind you, even Rob Riggle, who played dastardly Mr. Walters, the H.F.S. drug dealer whose penis got shot off, shows up with David Franco as his cell mate in a prison scene. Schmidt’s mother and father turn up, too. Of course, since original TV “Jump Street” headliner Johnny Depp suffered multiple gunshot wounds in “21 Jump Street,” he doesn’t come back. Rarely does a remake have the nerve to liquidate the leads from the show that spawned the remake. Nevertheless, comedy is a genre that evolves with each generation. Meantime, “21 Jump Street” co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller do their level best to bring audiences up to speed after a two-year hiatus. They rely on the television rehash convention where a narrator informs us what ‘previously’ happened. Audiences are treated to a condensed version of “21 Jump Street.” When they aren’t delivering funnier jokes and staging bigger Keystone Cops action set-pieces, Lord and Miller ridicule the formulaic conventions of sequels in general as well as “22 Jump Street” in particular. Lord and Miller also explore the bromantic relationship between the two protagonists in greater depth. Indeed, while “22 Jump Street” adheres to the blue-print plot of its predecessors, our heroes’ new college-oriented assignment, the beefed-up, $50-million budget, and the clever end credits constitute some of the most imaginative comedy you’ll ever see. One of the most outrageous gags features “Neighbors”comic Seth Rogen in a droll cameo near the end of this crackerjack comedy of errors.
Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are not actually attending a traditional college when “22 Jump Street” opens. Indeed, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube of “Friday”) told them at the end of “21 Jump Street” that they were going to college because they had grown too old to pass as teenagers in high school. Instead, they have been assigned to monitor internet communication at an on-line university. Specifically, they must listen for either suspicious keywords or phrases that might serve as code words for potential crimes. Our heroes learn about a meeting time and location at the docks. Remember, Schmidt and Jenko are not brainiacs. The professor states the location in no uncertain terms during his lecture. Like they did in “21 Jump Street,” Schmidt and Jenko find themselves outnumbered by the opposition. Schmidt masquerades as a laughable Mexican. The Ghost (Peter Stormare of “Armageddon”) and his henchman have a tractor-trailer load of contraband exotic animals. Predictably, Schmidt tangles with a large pink squid. This idiotic moment makes you want to laugh because comedian Jonah Hill is clearly doing all the work with his ersatz squid. If you’ve seen horror icon Bela Lugosi wrestling with an obviously bogus rubber octopus in Ed Wood, Jr.’s “Bride of the Monster” (1956), you can truly appreciate what makes this scene such a howler! Afterward, our heroes struggle to stop The Ghost,” but this wily opponent eludes them with ease. The truck stunts in this scene get “22 Jump Street” off to an adrenaline-laced start. Naturally, Schmidt and Jenko make big buffoons of themselves, while Ghost escapes.
Our heroes wind up in Deputy Chief Hardy’s office to face the music. Hardy (Nick Offerman of “We’re the Millers”) assigns them to 22 Jump Street, and they find themselves reunited with the profane Captain Dickson. The new office is located across the street from a church with a Korean Jesus. Schmidt and Jenko must find the villains behind a new synthetic drug called WhyPhy. According to Dickson, WhyPhy is a mixture of Adderall and Ecstasy with something else. You focus for the first couple of hours and then you party like never before and then you die. The only clue that they have is a photo of the student who bought the drug and later died using it. Schmidt and Jenko start hanging out with likely suspects. Jenko acquaints himself with two football players, Zook (Wyatt Russell of “Cowboys & Aliens”) and Rooster (Jimmy Tatro of “Grown Ups 2”), who belong to a fraternity. Meantime, the athletically challenged Schmidt attracts the attention of an art major, Maya (Amber Stevens of “The Amazing Spider-Man”), when he performs slam poetry. Gradually, Schmidt and Jenko fall out of touch with each other, and this creates friction between them. Jenko has taken up big time with Zook and joins the college football team. These two are literally wired into each other because Jenko is always where he is supposed to be to catch Zook’s passes! Eventually, our frustrated heroes consult Mr. Walters (Rob Ripple) about the best strategy for ferreting out the WhyPhy suppliers.
Happily, “22 Jump Street” never takes itself seriously and never loses sight of its origins as a sequel. “21 Jump Street” should be best remembered as the first buddy cop movie to address the relationship dynamics between male partners. “22 Jump Street” pokes fun at Schmidt and Jenko, and our heroes have to endure a droll counseling session with a shrink. The African-American twins Keith & Kenny Yang (The Lucas Brothers) who live across the hall from them in the dorm will keep you in stitches with their antics. Similarly, Mr. Walters’ prison scenes are hysterical. Our heroes experience some changes themselves, particularly Schmidt. Schmidt loses his virginity, and the real surprise is the identity of the girl’s father. Jenko indulges in malapropisms. He says ‘anals’ when he means ‘annuals.’ Instead of saying carte blanche, he says “Cate Blanchett,” He also uses Parkour to shimmy up any edifice. I didn’t laugh as often at “21 Jump Street” so “22 Jump Street” took me by surprise. Not only does it live up to its predecessor with its goofy “Saturday Night Live” sketch-type humor, but “22 Jump Street” also surpasses the original.