22 Jump Street laughs at itself, again

If it seemed Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill couldn’t possibly exceed their over-the-top buddy cop antics of 21 Jump Street, you lost that bet. They did it by doing the same thing, only bigger, in the considerably zanier and even more self-referential sequel 22 Jump Street. There’s nothing these guys won’t do (or redo) for a laugh, the bigger the better and as stupidly as possible.

22 Jump Street

Three stars (out of four)

Rated: 14A

If it seemed Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill couldn’t possibly exceed their over-the-top buddy cop antics of 21 Jump Street, you lost that bet.

They did it by doing the same thing, only bigger, in the considerably zanier and even more self-referential sequel 22 Jump Street.

There’s nothing these guys won’t do (or redo) for a laugh, the bigger the better and as stupidly as possible.

While everything is writ larger, including the action sequences and the anger of the police captain (Ice Cube), it’s also mirthfully familiar.

Hill’s Schmidt is still the bumbling dork to Tatum’s handsome jock Jenko.

They’re still going undercover as students, to college this time instead of high school, and trying once again to discover the source of a lethal new street drug.

“I’m the first person in my family to pretend to go to college,” Jenko deadpans.

This pair may be as dim as a small appliance bulb, but they pass comedy chemistry class with straight As. They’re also once again under the anarchic guidance of co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the pair behind the lovable The LEGO Movie earlier this year.

22 Jump Street may sound like an easy cash grab in yet another sequel franchise, but Lord and Miller mercilessly riff on that very idea. This is serious meta mayhem, always referring back to the fact that they’ve already made this movie — just as 21 Jump Street winked at how the film was recycling ideas from a defunct 1980s TV series.

22 Jump Street is bookended by references to how sequels always get out of control and usually suck. Paradoxically, these in-jokes are the funniest part of the movie, as Tatum and Hill pose for one fake movie poster after another, including a sci-fi sequel called 2121 Jump Street.

Less hilarious is the humour that skates near the edge of bad taste and arguably goes over it: the relentless jokes with a homophobic subtext and the scene where a woman gets repeatedly punched in the head by a man. (Sure, she literally asks for it, but it’s the lowest form of humour.)

22 Jump Street gets a hall pass for including everybody in the extreme absurd humour, including a supporting cast of famous faces (cameos abound) and not-so-famous ones.

A big hello to Afro-Asian twins Keith and Kenny Lucas as mentally conjoined stoners, Wyatt Russell as a jock who threatens the Schmidt/Jenko bromance and Jillian Bell, as a caustic roommate who takes no prisoners.

Bell, soon to be seen in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, is the film’s most noteworthy addition. Her character Mercedes sees right through Schmidt’s fake student guise, and won’t stop needling him about being “old” — even though, at age 30, Hill is actually not that far off college age, and a lot closer to it than he was to being a high schooler in 21 Jump Street.

But the movie is ultimately owned by Hill and Tatum, whose willingness to go for broke is infectious. Perhaps not since Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb & Dumber have there been two actors so eager to compete with each other for a chance to look foolish.

All joking aside about those fake Jump Street sequels, though, you have to wonder where on Earth these undercover cops can next cause mayhem, since they’ve pretty much exhausted academic options.

I see a space station in their future, and a 2121 Jump Street poster. …

Peter Howell is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.

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