You’re going to want to sit through all the end credits for “22 Jump Street.” They’re not just funnier and smarter than the movie itself but they’re vastly so – by a multiple of 10 at least, if such a thing could be estimated.
I laughed exactly four times at the movie itself. That’s it. If students of the peculiarities of star ratings, then, find the adjoining star rating for the film a bit inflated for such meager movie merriment, I’d have to testify in open court that one of those laughs was pretty long and loud and deep. You have to relish your pleasures where you find them.
Unfussy megaplex yuk-yuk seekers, no doubt, remember that in the original “21 Jump Street,” Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill and friends worked out the entertaining notion that the way to make a 21st century movie out of the old Stephen Cannell undercover cop series with a post-teen Johnny Depp was to make a slob comedy out of it.
Voila! All sorts of young male allegiance and pots of box office ensued. There was demographic gold in them there Jonah Hills.
So the boys are back being the exact same oafish, mismatched invaders of youth culture they were the first time around.
The difference is that this time they have a lot more money at their disposal and they’ve moved across the street from the old Korean church at 21 Jump Street to the much-larger former Vietnamese church at 22.
And thereby hangs the major gag of “22 Jump Street” which seems to threaten actual wit and braininess until you actually see the film and realize what a lame and desperate search for amusement it so often is.
What threatens to make “22 Jump Street” memorably smart and anarchically comic in the real world of cheap, cynical sequels is a constant awareness in the film of just what a cheap, cynical – indeed threadbare – search for megaplex box office the movie is.
In the realms of post-modern culture, such stuff could be called meta-cinema by those insistent about being fancy, i.e. movies about movies.
A lot of cinematic self-consciousness and crass bravado, though, aren’t the same thing as a meta-movie. If they were, Burt Reynolds would have been the equivalent of the great Italian master Italo Calvino every time he laughed his hyena laugh and suggested onscreen that he and Sally Field do something “cheap and superficial” in a “Smokey and the Bandit” movie.
Early on, then, in “22 Jump Street,” Ice Cube, as the boys’ perennially sclerotic commanding officer, tells them in their new assignment to “do the same thing as last time” and everyone will be happy. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more.
Which the filmmakers and stars do for the rest of the sequel. This time they’re undercover at a college to investigate a new synthetic drug called “whyphy.”
Says the mesomorphic knucklehead Renko (Channing Tatum, funny as always), “I’m the first member of my family to pretend to go to college.”
It turns out he’s a pigskin prodigy in the making along with a doofus fraternity all-star, too. He bonds with the college team’s quarterback (played with resolute surfer dude stupidity by Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt) and impresses the idiots at the campus’ knucklehead fraternity Zeta Theta Psi by being able to open two bottles of beer with his eye sockets. (An impressive skill to be sure. A call to Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks was clearly warranted there.)
He’s so good on the football field that the coach secretly tells the rest of the team “no one can tell McQuaid he’s good! He’ll leave this (expletive) program.”
While fake freshman Renko is finding his bliss bonding with the football team quarterback, fat fake freshman Schmitt (Jonah Hill) is bonding for an evening of repeated sex with a beauty who hangs out at poetry slams (Amber Stevens).
Big trouble in the world of raunchy comic bromance happens.
And this is where the movie – so vehemently determined to be “fun” – opens frightening vistas onto the real world’s perception of our current dimwit megaplex rituals. You may remember that after the horrors at Isla Vista, Calif., that left seven dead, including the deeply disturbed assailant, we learned of his rage at not being included in all the supposed sex and good times of campus life to which he felt completely entitled. Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday wondered aloud about the misleading consequences in our dumbed-down comic movies of all those Jonah Hills who always get blissful erotic evenings with girls who look like Amber Stevens.
In another scene in this movie for which Hill was one of five writers, the script makes a big deal out of pejorative words for gay that can no longer be used acceptably, the very subject Hill had to discuss on the “Tonight Show” when he publicly apologized because he’d reacted, in a rage at a paparazzo, by using that very word.
I hate to bring in the real world to discuss a movie like this which seeks only to bring laughs. Judging by the audience, much more than me, it succeeds.
But then reality can usually be counted on to be a buzzkill.
22 jump street
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens, Wyatt Russell, Peter Stormare
Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Running time: 112 minutes
Rating: R for much language, some sex, nudity, violence and wall-to-wall crudity.
The Lowdown: The worst undercover narcs on the force go to college to break a drug ring pushing a new synthetic drug.