By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “Do it just like last time,” barks the police chief at two young undercover cops back on the job.
Is he talking about doing police work or making a sequel?
And then 22 Jump Street proceeds to do just that. And although it does okay in the belly-laughs department, adds a wrinkle or two in the originality department, and makes fun of its similarity to the first outing, it’s still essentially a rehash of 21 Jump Street, but with an acknowledged bigger-is-better budget.
2012’s 21 Jump Street worked on the movie screen because the television crime drama about youthful undercover cops that served to introduce Johnny Depp to the viewing public as the ’80s became the ’90s was turned adeptly into a comedy.
The raucous action romp was a fresh, funny, big-screen spin on the material that also served as a sendup of high school comedies and buddy-cop thrillers.
The sequel, coyly titled 22 Jump Street because the undercover-unit headquarters has moved across the street, doesn’t stray much if at all from the tone or structure in the original.
Which is okay if you’re not looking for anything new.
The budding comedy team of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum –- their contrasting body types an abiding sight gag — return as undercover cops Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko.
Once again, they’re given an assignment by their captain, played with his unvarying trademark snarl by Ice Cube, but this time it’s at a college rather than a high school.
Their mission: to crack a crime ring operating within a fraternity peddling a new, lethal recreational drug known as WhyPhy.
But as Schmidt infiltrates a group of art majors and Jenko insinuates his way onto the football team, their partnership and bromance become problematic and get tested.
The co-directors of 21 Jump Street, Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), return with an initially amusing and eventually tiresome critique of sequels themselves, disarming us by calling attention to the clichés and conventions being paraded before us while referencing the notion and phenomenon of movie sequels and the rules that apply to the sequels-never-equal reality.
Meanwhile, the narrative leaves plenty of room for slapstick bits that call for Hill and Tatum, both adept at physical comedy, to turn themselves into virtual animated characters.
The weakest components are the halfhearted and sloppy action sequences featuring singularly unconvincing gunplay. After all, why even include it if you’re going to merely throw it away?
The self-referential script by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman, based on a story by Bacall and Jonah Hill, features a density of jokes, inspired silliness, and comedic relentlessness such that the occasional misstep or overstep doesn’t matter: there’s always another potentially effective bit on its heels.
But the comedic energy wanes considerably in the third act.
The screenplay also allows Tatum and co-writer and producer Hill, who are nothing less than game participants, to send up their individual, well-established star personas as they explore the slippery slope that is the bromantic relationship.
And make sure to stay through the ambitious end credits: there are more laughs to come in what may actually be the film’s strongest and funniest sequence.
So we’ll infiltrate 2½ stars out of 4 for this dash of loose but liberating self-mockery in a gleeful sequel that more or less equals. 22 Jump Street jumps just as high as 21 Jump Street.