Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are back on the case in "22 Jump Street," and it's almost exactly the same case: Two bumbling cops go undercover as students (last time it was high school, this time it's college) to bust a drug ring.
In the hands of returning directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, however, that sameness is all part of the meta-gag that drives the movie, which is a by-the-numbers sequel (to 2012's "21 Jump Street") and a sendup of by-the-numbers sequels. According to reviews, the punch lines pay off just as well the second time around.
The Times' Betsy Sharkey calls the movie "a raucous, raunchy, irreverent, imperfect riot," and says Lord and Miller "understand exactly what they've got this time: a solidly implausible story, sight gags galore, endless jokes for the two new freshmen to go sophomoric, all unfolding at breakneck speed."
She adds that "none of [it] would work if Tatum and Hill weren't so disarming in their roles. Their level of comfort with the characters and each other helps '22' click."
Ty Burr of the Boston Globe says "22" is "a hugely enjoyable shambles. It's a comic deconstruction of that most useless of Hollywood artifacts — the blockbuster sequel — that refuses to take itself seriously on any level, which, face it, is just what we need as the summer boom-boom season shifts into high gear."
Lord and Miller, he says, "simultaneously give us the pleasures of the text and the meta-text, and stupid has rarely seemed so smart."
The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday says the movie "steers blessedly clear of common sequel traps, even while brazenly committing so many of the form's sins." As for "22's" leads, "the truth is, the old-married-couple dynamic between the two men is still funny, especially in the deft hands of Hill and Tatum, who have built a comic chemistry worthy of Hope and Crosby — or at least Lucy and Ethel."
The New York Times' Manohla Dargis writes that "More is more and is, at times, just right in '22 Jump Street,' an exploding pinata of gags, pratfalls, winking asides, throwaway one-liners and self-reflexive waggery." She adds, "As in the first movie, the guiding comic principle here remains the appearance of ironic detachment followed by an assertion of sincerity that's as appealing as it is disingenuous. It's a destabilizing strategy that allows the filmmakers to have their cake and scarf it too."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle meanwhile, says that "'22 Jump Street' is exactly what comedy is today. It's coarse, free-flowing and playful. People talk the way they talk in real life. It has no sentiment of any kind and no phony uplift. No one becomes a better person for having watched it. It's made with an awareness of the past, so you get subtle riffs on genre cliches from earlier comedies. And it's really funny, not 'heh-heh' funny, but laugh-out-loud funny, virtually scene by scene."
Among the sparse negative reviews is Kyle Smith of the New York Post, who writes, "The sequel to one of the funniest films of the last five years is so repetitious, so manic, so forced and so convinced it's clever to be lame as long as you keep telling the audience you're being lame and that its title seems like a bewildering typo. Surely the franchise wasn't due to run this short of ideas until about '28' or '29 Jump Street'?"
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