22 Jump Street: At Best, a Diversion; At Worst, Crass
- Friday, June 13, 2014
Release Date: June 13, 2014
Rating: R (language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence)
Genres: Action, Comedy, Crime
Run Time: 112 minutes
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Wyatt Russell
In our last episode (21 Jump Street), hapless police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) went on an undercover assignment disguised as high school students. On the heels of that successful operation, the partners are now... just as pitiful as ever. After a hilarious botched attempt to take down drug kingpin Ghost (Peter Stormare), the two are sent back to do what they do best: go to school. Only this time, they're heading to college.
One of the endearing features of 22 Jump Street is that it doesn't take itself seriously. It's a rather brilliant parody of comedy sequels, poking fun at everything from its own original film to poetry slams to action movies to its stars (as when the new office of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) is described as "a giant cube of ice"). The chemistry between costars Hill and Tatum adds charm to this bromance and their comic timing is a joy to behold. You can tell they're having fun, so the audience does, too.
College has a way of breaking up high school relationships, and these two are no exception. Not even couples counseling (not their idea) can help when Jenko finds a new bestie in the school’s quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell). This leaves Schmidt to bond with the pretty girl in the artsy crowd (and by “bond” I mean have sex with. While we don’t have to watch, we are treated a review of their performance from her acerbic roommate the next morning. Dorm rooms have no privacy).
And that's one of the least pleasant things about this film. While it’s clever, funny, includes some inspired split-screen moments and good-natured acting, so much of the content is sexually-oriented on the nastier end of that spectrum. Is it really funny that a dorm-room bed is covered in what we’ll call here ‘bodily fluid’? Was it absolutely necessary for one male character to grope another in an attempt to retrieve a weapon? Prison relationships are probably a given, but details about on prisoner’s sex-change operation and its results? The last straw for me was a children’s game where the object was to shoot at a row of fake penises. I understand that it’s a reference to a scene from 21 Jump Street, but for me, adding children to the mix crossed a line. Surely all that combined talent could have produced something just as funny without sinking quite that deeply into the gutter.
Now that rant is out of the way, let’s get back to the plot (what there is of it). It’s not likely viewers will have any trouble spotting the villain in the piece, but that’s not really the point. The investigation is secondary to the relationship between our heroes, something the film does examine in a funny but mildly touching way. It even makes a couple of valid points about what’s required for a healthy relationship.
As mentioned, the actors all seem to be having a blast, which adds a lighthearted feel to this already goofy story. Hill’s expressive face milks the most out of every scene while Tatum’s openmouthed earnestness is the perfect foil to his partner’s histrionics. The two are shown in split screen action more than once, a device that works beautifully. The contrast between their (accidental) drug-induced trips is particularly entertaining, at least until “Vietnamese Jesus” shows up to dance (long story—he’s a statue from the Vietnamese church that serves as cover for the Jump Street division. While mildly disturbing, it makes sense in context).
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