Talk about a meta-movie: the guys behind 22 Jump Street have gotten away with
murder, making an action comedy that simply (and brazenly) copies all the
ingredients of 21 Jump Street. The
joke, which stretches from the first scene to the last, is that both the
filmmakers and the characters onscreen acknowledge the conceit. This smug self-awareness
is funny for a while, but eventually wears thin—at least, it did for me (if not
for the audience at the screening I attended). When a film is long and only intermittently
funny I lose patience with self-referential material.
Instead of infiltrating a high school, Jonah Hill and
Channing Tatum go to college this time, but on an identical mission: to find
the source of a powerful new drug being passed around campus. As in the first
picture, these misfits get more engaged in being accepted by their classmates
than in following the case. Hill is attracted to beautiful student Amber
Stevens, while Tatum has a bromance with football star Wyatt Russell (Kurt’s
and Goldie Hawn’s son).
The stars are likable, doing what we’ve seen them do before;
for most summer audiences that may be good enough. I was more enthusiastic
about the supporting cast, especially fast-talking twins Keith and Kenny Lucas
and deadpan Jillian Bell, as Stevens’ hostile roommate. They steal every scene
they’re in—though in a film this haphazard that may be a minor compliment.
A hip attitude seems to carry some comedies a long way, and if this is a hit then the three writers who fashioned this
screenplay (Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman) from Bacall and
Jonah Hill’s story may have the right idea after all. Directors Phil Lord and
Christopher Miller bring the right energy to the proceedings. But in a world
where sequels mean big business, I dread the thought of more slipshod copycat-style
movies winking at us while laughing all
the way to the bank.