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19 Jun 2014

Smashing Sequel: '22 Jump Street' Is Hysterically Hilarious

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Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 22 Jump Street. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 22 Jump Street.

I totally lost it thanks to a laughing fit during 22 Jump Street. There’s a pivotal scene in this always-funny sequel that had me laughing to the point where tears were coming out of my eyes, and I couldn’t breathe.

I noticed that a lot of folks around me were having the same problem.

I won’t tell you about the scene; you’ll know what I’m talking about when it happens. I will tell you that this sequel is as good as the film that birthed the franchise.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, an unlikely duo if there ever was one, basically repeat the same steps of the very funny 21 Jump Street, and they do it in a way that keeps things fresh—while recycling the same plot. This film acknowledges what it is—a run-of-the mill sequel—for its entire running time. It’s a self-mocking technique that works well thanks to its stars and the deft comic direction of returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. (Lord and Miller are on a roll; they also directed this year’s The Lego Movie.)

This one picks up where the first film left off, with Captain Dickson (Ice Cube, in serious comic overdrive) giving Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) an undercover assignment at a college, where they will do exactly what they did in the first movie: Infiltrate the drug-dealers, and find the supplier.

Once they show up in college and put their stylin’ beanbag chair in their dorm room, Schmidt and Jenko set about making friends and looking for the new drug of choice, called WHYPHY. Of course, the two ingest the drug at one point, which leads to a hilarious trip in which Schmidt ends up in some sort of hell where Creed plays on the loudspeakers, while Jenko has a more pleasant time involving rainbow colors and getting tickled.

Schmidt continues to be the only one who gets lucky in the Jump Street universe, this time scoring with Maya (Amber Stevens), who, much to his surprise, happens to be related to somebody prominent in his life. Jenko definitely has a better time in college than he did in high school, hitting it big with Zook (Wyatt Russell, son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell), the football team’s quarterback. Jenko becomes a star athlete while Schmidt has girl problems and eventually finds himself ostracized.

Some of the film’s best gags occur while Ice Cube is on the screen; there’s also a great bit involving Maya’s roommate, Mercedes (Jillian Bell), and her hilariously deadpan observations after having to endure sex noises all night. Twins the Lucas Brothers (that’s how they’re credited) play Keith and Kenny Yang, Schmidt and Jenko’s odd neighbors across the dormitory hall, who share thoughts and are responsible for Schmidt and Jenko’s surprise WHYPHY trip.

As for cameos, Rob Riggle makes a triumphant return as Mr. Walters, who lost a very important piece of his anatomy in the first movie, and Dave Franco is back as Eric the drug dealer, who’s living a life of pure hell as Mr. Walters’ cell-block husband. Stick around for all of the credits for a final joke involving those two, as well as a short cameo by Richard Grieco as Booker, a vet of the 21 Jump Street TV show. Nothing beats Johnny Depp’s cameo in the first movie, but Riggle and Franco’s cameo come close.

Some of the film’s biggest laughs occur during the credits, during which Schmidt and Jenko keep getting assigned to new schools (magic school, dancing school, etc.), with accompanying fake movie posters.

It seems as if the post-credit future-premise jokes exhaust all ideas for new installments. Please don’t let this be true. I want more Schmidt and Jenko movies.

22 Jump Street is playing at theaters across the valley.

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