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’22 Jump Street:’ Good Cop, Better Movie

It manages its sequelity (sequelness? sequelation?) like Muppets: Most Wanted did, banging you over the head with clever jokes about how movies are never as good the second time around. But in 22 Jump Street, the meta references to the insane budget wasted on this installment and references to the challenge they face of making the same movie without recycling the plot are so pervasive, so intertwined into nearly every line of dialogue, and so integral to every point of the plot, that it is actually really impressive. And really funny.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back, and Tatum stronger than ever. There is something so sincere and wide-eyed about Tatum’s performances in comedies that is so funny without being the least bit unnatural. Ice Cube is back with his signature scowl that they use and massage to perfection. And Peter Stormare takes a turn as the villain, an actor who is for me so incredibly hilarious in everything he’s in in the most understated way. The real stand out though, is Jillian Bell, whose deadpan badassery is on point.

Jonah Hill, left, and Channing Tatum in Columbia Pictures' "22 Jump Street."

Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) end up at the 22 Jump Street address in a more than convenient fashion. An entire car chase sequence is steered (literally) into the path that destroys the most expensive things. Jenko’s bro-y love for “Lambo’s” culminates in a scene with a Lamborghini that is so not fair. The money is spent obviously and lavishly in a way that could have been showy and douchey, but instead point to a humbleness and humility that’s rare in blockbuster comedies.

The guys land themselves at a college to find a dealer of a new drug, WHYPHY (Which stands for, “Work Hard? Yes. Party Hard? Yes,” a silly acronym that slyly makes fun of acronyms). It’s, on purpose, and very outwardly, the same deal as last time. The same exact assignment, which works to the filmmakers’ advantage on so many different levels. They know the audience is going to come to see the same magic as the first time around. They know the same sort of plot is the safest way to go in terms of keeping the studio happy. They also know it’s the lamest thing to do. But they also know that the plot doesn’t really matter here, so why not keep it the same, acknowledge that, and turn it on its head. It makes everyone happy (audience members who are coming to see funny cops do funny things, the studio, which spent way too much money on a movie about funny cops, and audience members who are always skeptical about sequels and appreciate filmmakers acknowledging that they’ve been given way too much money to make a movie about funny cops).

22-jump-street-channing-tatum

Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of recent The Lego Movie fame) directed this puppy, and they are A – killing it and B – in one of the greatest positions to be in as Hollywood directors. This point was brought up by my good friend Josh. Lord and Miller keep making movies that have zero expectation attached to them, so when they turn out great, as in this case, or even more than great, as in the case of The Lego Movie, everyone is practically in awe. There’s no doubt this is a temporary position, because now, more and more people will run to buy tickets for movies just because the names “Lord” and “Miller” are attached to them, and that, I suppose, is nearly the definitive example of the existence of expectations. But I think these guys will be OK, and that’s because with 22 Jump Street, they’ve proven to be hyper-aware of the circumstances in which the movies they make will exist, all the contextual arenas they have to consider in order to make everyone really happy. And that’s an amazing skill to have.

Grade: A-

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Verena

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