Monday, June 16, 2014

Jumping for Joy: 22 Jump Street Delivers Pure Silliness.

Movie Review: 22 Jump Street

Director: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Reviewed: 16 June 2014

jamesintexas rating-- ***

22 Jump Street is a hilarious and fast-paced sequel that pokes fun at itself as much as possible en route to some of the largest laughs of the year. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return as Jenko and Schmidt, this time placed under cover as college students to discover the identity of The Ghost, a dealer behind a superdrug named Why-Phy that is about to invade college campuses. Jenko finds himself pulled into the world of the football team and fraternity represented by Wyatt (Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn's son Wyatt Russell) while Schmidt forges a connection with hall neighbor Maya (Amber Stevens) while sleuthing for clues about the drug. The investigation threatens to drive the two friends apart as Schmidt deals with his jealousy and Jenko finds himself contemplating really playing football, realizing that "I'm the first in my family to ever pretend to go to college."

But, that flimsy plot is just pretense for a ton of screen time with Tatum and Hill playing off of each other, often times contrasting their physicality (Tatum will jump Parkour-style up buildings while Hill will angrily plod the stairs). The two actors work so well together; the chemistry never stops being funny with them taking on their friendship with the gravity (and dialogue) of a love affair. Tatum is so winning here with his new found knowledge from his Human Sexuality class and his verbal trips of the tongue. And Hill continues to play up his character's neediness and chameleon-like nature of changing into whatever he needs to be, a blend of awkwardness and big eyes. The plot gets put to the side as the film devises sequence after sequence to showcase these two actors. A great scene just involves Hill doing the walk of shame home in the morning carrying his shoes. Ice Cube returns as their Captain and delivers the best moment of the film at a breakfast gone wrong; I cannot remember when I have laughed more deeply or missed more dialogue because I was trying to breathe. His scene causes the theater to erupt with laughter. Some of the supporting cast from the first film returns for some big laughs as well with special recognition given to Rob Riggle for sheer silliness.

Last summer, one of the funniest films was the apocalyptic This Is The End with both actors amidst a group of contemporaries, and based on this third film, I could stand to continue to seeing a film with Tatum and Hill every summer. The verve with which they attack the idea of sequels in this film (through direct and very meta-jokes, budget concerns for the Jump Street department, a chain of potential follow-ups at the end) indicates an endless well of creativity and laughs. I'm pretty sure there was an Annie Hall reference with Tatum and Russell playing with lobsters midway through, and a chase scene passes the Benjamin Hill Center for Film Studies with a snippet of Hill's signature zany music. The film is not great from beginning to end, but the laughs are consistent and  real and guttural; they have made a film that maximizes its own laughter by cutting nearly everything else. And 22 Jump Street works. I recommend it.

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