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Film review: '22 Jump Street'

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If you're tempted to make a joke about "22 Jump Street," the sequel to the hit comedy starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, continuing with future iterations of "23 Jump Street," and so on, don't bother. The movie has already beaten you to the punch at poking fun at itself.

In fact, one of the most refreshing thing about this reboot of the 1980s TV show is that it gleefully wallows in its own crass commercialism. It's a wicked send-up of not only the whole buddy-cop genre, but of itself.

Our film comedies have now reached the level of ironic detachment where the snake is eating its own tail.

Nothing we see is meant to be taken at face value. So the stars aren't playing the roles of undercover cops posing as college students -- one the brainy dweeb and the other the lunkhead bruiser -- but the parody versions of them.

At one point, Hill and Tatum walk into their new "undercover" police headquarters, which happens to be right across the street from their old one. Next door, the "23 Jump Street Apartments" are currently under construction.

If you think that's hip and hilarious, wait till the end credits, which takes the same joke and runs it into the end zone, spikes the ball, bursts out of the stadium into the parking lot, and keeps going.

After inept rookie cops Schmidt and Jenko (Hill and Tatum, respectively) managed to break up a huge high school drug ring, they're tasked with doing the same thing again at MC State. When Schmidt tries to suggest other approaches, their deputy chief (Nick Offerman) sternly enforces the rule of sequels: do exactly the same thing as last time.

This they do, with the socially awkward Schmidt struggling to fit into the college party scene, while Jenko makes the football team as a walk-on and bonds with their charismatic quarterback (Wyatt Russell), who may or may not be lynchpin of the campus narcotics scene.

The specifics of the plot are so tiresome that co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and their trio of screenwriters barely bother to even pay attention to them. The movie mostly jumps from scene to scene, generally involving Hill and Tatum spewing out motormouth gibberish, making fools of themselves while also commenting on the proceedings as they're unfolding. The movie doesn't so much do jokes as stages uncomfortable situations.

This is the comedy of embarrassment. Much of this is painful to watch, and in seeing our boys squirm we are intended to derive laughs.

And there are a lot of them, though there are long stretches in the middle where we feel more sorry for the people we're following than amused by them.

The lead actors are both in their 30s, and look it, and one of the running gags is that absolutely no one they meet believes they are college age.

"I'm 19," Schmidt says, straight-faced.

"Nineteen minutes late to the pinochle game?" a snarky girl responds.

After a while, though, the shtick starts to wear thin and we know everything that's going to happen -- like that no gunfight can commence without an extended back-and-forth of insults and quips between the antagonists.

At nearly two hours long, "22 Jump Street" far outstays its welcome. Like an actual college party, it's raucous and intoxicating for awhile, but after 90 minutes you've seen all there is to see, and the music shuffle starts to repeat.

22 JUMP STREET
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Amber Stevens, Peter STormare, Wyatt Russell, Ice Cube, Jimmy Tatro, Nick Offerman, Jillian Bell. R: for language, violence, drugs and brief sexuality. 112 min. Score: 2.5 out of four; 3.5 out of five; B- out of A-E.
Last modified: June 12, 2014
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