Movie Review: ‘Jump Street’ repeats itself for laughs

Back to school: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in
Back to school: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in "22 Jump Street."

‘22 Jump Street’
★ ★ ★

One of the most enjoyable things about 2012’s “21 Jump Street” was the surprise factor when the action-comedy reboot of the teen-bait ’80s cop show turned out to be much smarter and funnier than expected.

Obviously, you can’t be surprised by the same thing twice, so returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (fresh from a smash hit with “The LEGO Movie”) have settled for the next best thing in this mostly satisfying sequel.

Here, they’re constantly reminding us that the story line in “22 Jump Street” is pretty much exactly the same as it was in the original, and they’re making fun of sequels in general. The self-referential meta humor gets a bit wearisome, eventually, but it works, mainly because there’s often something randomly crazy waiting to leap out at you. Like a face-raping octopus inside a crate.

And because Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum still have unexpectedly terrific comic chemistry. After going undercover to bust a drug ring at a local high school in the original, officers Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) are ordered to “do the same thing as last time” as college students.

Part of the fun the first time was their initial antagonism, since dumb-jock-type Jenko and comparatively-smarter-dorky-type Schmidt had been natural enemies in high school. This leads, of course, to best-bro bonding.

Here, though, they’re best bros from the beginning, a situation that leads to the film’s second-most-frequently-reiterated theme: a heavily (and heavily handled) homo-eroticized satire on romantic relationships.

When Jenko becomes the new best friend of football star and fraternity president Zook (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn), Schmidt becomes so jealous they end up in counseling. But he also becomes convinced that Zook is the big drug dealer they’re after.

Not that it matters one way or another, really, who the culprit is. “22 Jump Street” is all about the jokes that happen along the way and enough of them score to make it solidly worthwhile if not quite the delightful revelation of the original.

Tatum and Hill both have fine moments and there are standout contributions from little-known performers to watch for: Comedy Central’s Lucas Brothers as permanently stoned twin, African-American/Chinese dorm-mates and from Jillian Bell (of Comedy Central’s “Workaholics”) as the witheringly insulting roommate of Schmidt’s girlfriend. (“You look like a 30-year-old eighth-grader.”)

It’s Ice Cube who gets the biggest laughs, though, as Jenko and Schmidt’s scowling, frequently enraged watch commander. The man can make ranting at a potted plant hilarious.

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