MOVIE MAN

Coarse ’22 Jump Street’ funnier and knows it

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, June 18, 2014

“22 Jump Street” surprised – right off the bat and at the very end.

ABOUT THE FILM

For only the second time in Movie Man history – this is review No. 1,093 – a movie was preceded by a red band trailer.

The past few years have seen an upsurge in the R-rated previews; however, the great majority of them are only viewed online (where several sites offer them).

Yet the first coming attraction before “22 Jump Street” – which had its own online red-bander – flashed up the rare red warning. It was for the movie “Sex Tape” (starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel as a couple that has their personal night of intimacy accidently uploaded to the Cloud and their ensuing efforts to fetch it). It didn’t inspire the Movie Man to go see it anymore than a regular preview.

“Sex Tape” arrives July 18, the other curiously weak week of the summer. (The first lacking weekend is June 20 when the Movie Man will skip “Jersey Boys” and drop back to pick up “How to Train Your Dragon 2″.) So “Sex Tape” will likely have an OK start but quickly disappear, another raunchy comedy that will surely misfire – much like “A Million Ways to Die in the West” (which also had an online red-band trailer.)

So even before “22 Jump Street” began, there was a surprise. The other came over the final credits, which really saved the day.

This movie staggers around. It’s absolutely horrible for the first 30 minutes, then somehow finds a gear. By the end credits, the Movie Man had bumped a 3 up to a 6 – that’s a big jump.

That first half hour is painful because the movie is so self-aware. Stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum knew sequels often stink, so they spent endless time making fun of the fact that they were making a second movie.

That self-congratulatory attitude – like a hipster knowing he’s a hipster which makes him even hipper – wore out immediately.

But, like the Movie Man said, the film got better and gave the Movie Man far more laughs than the pathetic “Neighbors” (a 3) which starred Seth Rogen. The “22 Jump Street” writers take advantage of the fact that many filmgoers mix up Hill and Rogen (see What works) – now THAT’S funny self-awareness.

THE PLOT

Officers Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) get a new assignment from their boss, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). After attending high school to bust a drug ring in “21 Jump Street” (2012, a 5), the shockingly vulgar Ice Cub sends the duo to college to discover who is pushing a drug called WhyPhy (WiFi).

Hill falls in with the brainy university crowd and meets Maya (Amber Stevens) whose roommate Mercedes (Jillian Bell) does not approve of their in-room coupling. Tatum meets and digs the star football quarterback, Zook (Wyatt Russell), who is spotted carrying WhyPhy.

The investigation revolves around drug kingpin The Ghost (Peter Stromare). The two undercover cops even make a visit for information to the incarcerated Walters (Rob Riggle) and Molson (Dave Franco) – all back (briefly) from the first movie.

Hill and Tatum have a spat and break up. But both come up with clues that make the case deeper than it seems. That’s followed by a wacky chase through the campus that destroys several sites (including a cruddy student sculpture garden) and comic fisticuffs.

WHAT WORKS (SPOILER)

Hill’s funny. Unlike Rogen’s hey-look-I’m-funny-because-I’m-loud-and-wacky bit, Hill can cast off one-liners that zing. Tatum has the dumb-guy shtick down, too.

However, it’s two cast members with smaller roles that hit homers. The biggest laugh of the movie belongs to Ice Cube with his wild-eyed silent stare-of-death when he meets his daughter’s boyfriend. (The Movie Man won’t ruin it for you.)

Spewing non-stop vulgarities, he’s a cussing machine, and you can’t help but laugh at his disbelief at how Hill and Tatum constantly act like imbeciles.

The other standout is the roommate Bell. She recognizes that there is no way Hill is 19 years old, and she constantly unleashes a string of old man jokes whenever they are on screen together. Even when they literally fight, she’s still flinging them at him. This is a classic case of someone stealing a movie.

After its pitiful start, the funny dialogue and jokes begin to hit. It’ll be even funnier for home viewing when captions will reveal a slew of under the breath utterances that weren’t discernable in theaters.

Finally, the film goes back to the sequel-joke book once more, and this time it’s funny. Under the end credits, a series of fake commercials for future Jump Street’s run – including one that replaces Rogen for Hill: “No one will ever notice.” Good stuff.

BEST SCENE (SPOILER)

Hill and Tatum accidently take mega doses of WhyPhy. Hill’s drug-fueled trip sends him to Hades where he’s not only burning and being tortured but Creed also plays non-stop. Tatum is in a happy rainbowed heaven where he rides unicorns and can even float around.

It’s all shown split screen with Hill eventually trying to bust in on Tatum’s groovy situation. It’s funny.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK (SPOILER)

As noted already, the first part of the movie is “Neighbors” bad – unfunny, too-cool-for-school jokes that fall flat. There is a long series of stinkers that silenced the dying-to-laugh, 20-something audience with the Movie Man.

The “action” sequences are beyond dumb – especially an opening scene – and every shot of Tatum playing football (he just shows up and gets asked to join the college squad!) is amateurish. (Of course, that could be the intent of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, mocking TV conventions.) Still, it’s awkward.

Sometimes the crudeness is too much, simply lewd for lewdness’ sake. That happens with the scene with Riggle and Franco (and their return in the stinger).

THE RATING

This is a hard R for language only. There’s only minor violence as well as implied drug use and drinking but no other reason for the R. However, those cuss words come non-stop.

SUMMING UP

Basically, if you liked “21 Jump Street”, you’ll like “22 Jump Street.” The Movie Man thinks it’s a tick up from the original. And, certainly, there are some laughs.

NEXT UP

“How to Train Your Dragon 2.”

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