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22 Jump Street - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
22 Jump Street
Directing: C+
Acting: B-
Writing: C-
Cinematography: C+
Editing: C

22 Jump Street is for lazy movie goers content with lazy movie studios greenlighting projects based on lazy writing that panders to lazy expectations. That's me, I guess! I actually went to this movie and I should have known better.

Except I, like probably plenty of others, was duped into thinking it could be good by a surprisingly strong public response. This movie has an even higher MetaCritic rating (71) than 21 Jump Street did (69), and I don't get it. At least the first film had something new to offer, if not particularly original, given that it was based on a 30-year-old TV show. And it was far more fun than expected.

The consensus seems to be that 22 Jump Street makes a valiant effort at being fun in all the same ways. Where the consensus and I disagree is with the "valiant" part. This movie doesn't feel like it's making any effort at all. Granted, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (working from a script with, amazingly, five credits) clearly want it to look that way, with its healthy amount of meta references to doing "the exact same thing" the second time around.

This is supposed to be a sendup of pointless sequels, and winds up still being pointless. Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are sent on assignment as college students instead of high school students; the abandoned church they report to has the 22 Jump Street address, across the street from the previous abandoned church (now Vietnamese instead of Korean). The only supposed difference is the referenced effort to outdo the first go-round, with a bigger budget: thus, the in-church facilities for Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) are far more elaborate and he's even considering getting a shark tank. With more money to spend, there's an obligation to destroy even more expensive sets in action sequences.

The trouble is, the action sequences are more stupid than they are exciting, and the humor not only consistently falls flat, it's persistently outright embarrassing. The joke of Schmidt and Jenko's "bromance" being like they're a bickering couple, right down to a scene in which they wind up in a semi-accidental therapy session together, plays out very quickly. But it continues getting milked for another ninety minutes after that. There's even a couple of scenes about homophobia that pointedly -- and quite directly -- calls people out for using anti-gay slurs. Their hearts are in the right place, but come on. Being pandered to isn't any more palatable depending on what side of the political spectrum you're on. (To put things in perspective: there's a scene in This Is the End in which Channing Tatum shows up as Danny McBride's jock strapped bitch, and it’s actually funny.)

It's not like 22 Jump Street couldn't have worked. Even the concept has potential: with the right writers, a sendup of typical movie sequels could actually have been funny. Instead, this movie is a whopper of a wasted opportunity. Too much of the writing, meant to be satirical, comes across as straightforward attempts at humor -- which doesn't work.

Now, I won't lie: it does have a few genuine laughs. Jillian Bell is particularly great as Schmidt's girlfriend's suspicious roommate, and a scene in which she and Jonah Hill end up in a fist fight, arguing over whether they're actually trying to kiss each other, is delightful. It just comes way, way too late in the game, and isn't worth the wait. We first slog through too much of her -- and other people's -- continued jokes from last time about Schmidt and Jenko looking too old to be in school. But I want to see more of Bell, in a movie that better plays to the comic strengths she clearly has.

The so-called climax, beginning maybe 90 minutes in when a movie like this really should be at its end, has Schmidt and Jenko following their suspects to Spring Break in Mexico. We get lots of jump cuts to huge crowds of partying extras in bathing suits on the beach. There is one kind of amusing scene in which Jenko basically uses a random woman on the beach as nunchucks. But then we're back the same chase scenes and shootouts. At least they also include Jillian Bell.

One character literally says at one point, "Things are always worse the second time around." It's meant to be both true and funny, an in-joke between them and the audience. But the statement is simply right on its face. This movie may be an open money-grab riding on the coattails of a superior film that itself was hardly profound, but in better hands it still could have worked. Instead, it's mostly witless.

22 jump street

Overall: C
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