Jokey, self-referential and always operating on two wavelengths — one as a dumb movie sequel full of dumb movie clichés and the other as a movie mocking those very clichés — “22 Jump Street” comes off as one very expensive yet very funny comedy sketch.
You can easily imagine two performers in a comedy club or TV skit doing this same schtick without stunt chases, shootouts and location shooting. All those trappings, as it were, are served up as a backdrop to the skits, sort of like watching a movie late at night on TV while enjoying a commentary by a comic.
So most of the film’s so-dumb-it’s-cool humor comes in dialogue and byplay between actor-producers Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. The fact it gets surrounded by all these movie trappings is part of the joke.
The actors play befuddled undercover cops in a movie sequel, which this of course is, giving much of the dialogue double meanings. For instance, their bitter captain played by Ice Cube — who can screw his face up in a frown that absolutely radiates bad vibes — declares, “Nobody gave a shit about the ‘Jump Street’ reboot.”
Or this from their beleaguered deputy chief: “It’s of course always worse the second time around” — all to signal that, yeah, first a reboot and now a sequel and don’t expect anything other than a repeat of “21 Jump Street” — just worse. (Meaning better.)
“We’ve doubled the budget, as if that would double the profits,” Ice Cube tell his cops— a clear and concise presentation of Hollywood studio executive thinking at its dumbest level.
The script by returning scribes Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman plays around with jealousy in the bromance formula this way: “Maybe we should just investigate other people,” Channing tells a crestfallen Hill. So, Hill asks, he wants to move their relationship into an “open investigation?”
There are other, quicker movie-related gags such as when the boys think they have “Cate Blanchett” in their investigation, mixing her name up with the phrase “carte blanche.” Visual gags abound too such as a spoof of De Palma-esque split screens. There is even a pretty good “Annie Hall” gag.
In a big chase scene (between Hummer and helmet-shaped golf cart) just after department budget cuts, the route depends solely on the course of least destruction to the least expensive sets, props, and surrounding scenery.
I’m trying to ignore the story since it seems almost superfluous to any analysis of the film and its ripe humor. But let’s just say the story more or less photocopies “21” only substitutes college for high school.
Channing’s Jenko bonds so closely with the jocks he is supposed to infiltrate that he winds up on the football team as its star pass receiver for quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell). And he winds up as BFF with Zook.
Meanwhile Hill’s Schmidt gets romantically involved with a delightful coed, Maya (Amber Stevens,) but that involves tangling with her hardass roommate (Jullian Bell), who gets many of the film’s best lines — or at least the bitchiest ones.
Just as “Airplane!” (1980) many years ago spoofed the “Airport” film series along with similar disaster/Irwin Allen movies of that era, “22 Jump Street,” ably helmed by returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“Lego Movie”), picks perhaps an easy target in the buddy-cop genre but its aim is deadly funny.
Hill and Channing are Abbott & Costello or perhaps Laurel & Hardy or maybe Crosby & Hope or Martin & Lewis or — you name your favorite male comedy team. The two decidedly dissimilar men play off one another with lovely timing and facial contortions (a few bodily ones too actually).
You’d go see them at the Improv any time. It’s just amazing an expensive movie is taking place around this very funny comedy routine.
June 13, 2014 (Columbia Pictures, MGM)
Production companies: Original Film, Cannell Studios
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, Nick Offerman, Amber Stevens, Wyatt Russell, Rob Riggle, Jillian Bell
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Screenwriters: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman
Producers: Jonah Hill, Neal H. Moritz, Channing Tatum
Executive producers: Brian Bell, Stephen J. Cannell, Reid Carolin, Tania Landau, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Director of photography: Barry Peterson
Production designer: Steve Saklad
Costume designer: Leesa Evans
Editors: Keith Brachmann, David Rennie
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
R rating, 111 minutes