“22 Jump Street” Movie Review

     Directing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller likely thought they were being clever by bringing a sequel to their commercially successful, yet incredibly substandard reimagining of “21 Jump Street” and letting the audience know everyone in the film is in on the sequel joke.  That being, we know sequels are cliched and typically overdo everything from the dialogue to the special effects, all the while knowingly recycling the plot from the first film over and over again (see “The Hangover” trilogy).  While the first act of “22 Jump Street” ensures the filmmakers are not trying to get one over on the audience, it still doesn’t mean the film adds up to much since they literally have reused the first film’s story again by merely inserting our two leads, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), into college rather than high school again.  The new setting really doesn’t change much as far as the film’s prospects of having any real quality about it, and the experience of watching “22 Jump Street” is even more painful than watching the first film.

     Movie trailers ofter ruin any chance for a comedy to induce the kind of laughs the filmmakers intended audiences to have when viewing their films and minutes into “22 Jump Street” you immediately realize one of the best bits of dialogue was already seen in the trailer, thus losing any impact that scene might have had.  Of course, the opening is preposterous in the worst way.  After a music video style scene in which these two morons have some kind of gun orgy with themselves, they proceed into an undercover operation posing as Hispanic drug dealers.  When the operation falls apart and the bad guys get away, they are immediately reassigned to the “Jump Street” unit (the church they occupied in the first film was bought, so they just moved across the street, giving the film it’s new title, clever huh?).  Once there, we are reintroduced to their boss when Schmidt quips “His office looks like a big cube of ice.”, used as a reference to Ice Cube’s character Captain Dickson.

     As in the first film, a designer drug called WHYPHY has plagued a local college and our two highly capable undercover operatives are sent in to sniff out who’s responsible.  This opens the door for a number of sequences involving drinking, sex, and drugs within the confines of fraternities, dorm rooms, and the inevitable Spring Break festivities.  None of these scenes are funny, nor are they creative and most simply fall flat.  Many are brutally painful to watch and mostly uninteresting.  The core of the story, as in the first film, is the on again, off again bromance between Schmidt and Jenko which remains an overused buddy cop plot device and isn’t nearly enough to carry a film anymore.  These lame exchanges include the same contrast of the two characters in which one is smart and one is stupid, demonstrated with statements from Jenko where he surmises the entire school has access to WiFi, thinking the students are talking about the drug in question, but is quickly reminded by Schmidt they’re talking about the internet.  Painful indeed.

     Once the script gets past a number of scenes in which the characters are constantly amazed with one another as they seem to be able to finish each others sentences (a recurring theme throughout), the investigation leads Schmidt and Jenko to a Spring Break resort and they discover both the source of the drugs as well as which students are involved, none of which is a real surprise.  The action plays out in a very run of the mill fashion and is obviously not meant to be the centerpiece in any way, instead relying solely on the comic talents of both the writers and the ability the actors have to look or sound funny.  Newcomer Jillian Bell does this to a certain extent, blending both her lines and physical comedy with some success.  The problem is so many of the characters are caricatures of the usual stereotypes seen in films about college age kids.  You have the art crowd, who listen to poetry and drink wine, while the other side of the campus is populated by the dumb jock crowd who prefer to spend their nights getting tanked and slamming themselves into goal posts until they’re unconscious.  Again, none of this works at all, with these people functioning as mere placeholders while our leads get the majority of the meaningless screen time.

     Earlier this summer, “Neighbors” was set in much the same realm and succeeded in every way “22 Jump Street” tries to, but fails miserably.  That film was chalk full of interesting and memorable characters and really brought back the vibe of some of the better raunchy comedies of the last decade and a half, including “Wedding Crashers”, “40 Year Old Virgin”, “The Hangover”, and “American Pie.”  The first film was a travesty in it’s own right, but “22 Jump Street” doesn’t even care to bring that film’s shortcomings to another level, instead settling in as a carbon copy of it’s predecessor and the film version of a one trick pony. I’d advise any and all to stay away. GRADE:  F