22 Jump Street is the rare sequel that works

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      Starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Rated 14A. Now playing

      Who cares if no one bothered to think up a new plot for 22 Jump Street? The same things that made 21’s ironic riff on the hit ’80s TV show so fresh and funny raise this to a high-grade sequel.

      Yes, they’re undercover and on the trail of designer drugs again, and yes, their headquarters are hidden in an Asian church again (this time it’s Vietnamese). But damned if the hilariously self-referential 22 Jump Street doesn’t get away with it, mostly because the inspired buddies-with-badges flick constantly pokes fun at its own silly sequel status.

      “It’s always worse the second time around,” says cop boss Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). “We don’t want to do all the same things again!” whines Channing Tatum’s Jenko when he’s given the assignment.

      Here, Schmidt (Jonah Hill, who cowrites) and Jenko are sent to infiltrate a college campus where an illegal study drug has just killed a student. It’s not just their chemistry that continues to work here, with Tatum’s superhero stunts offset by Hill’s cloddishness—it’s also the jokes about their bromance, which devolves into couples counselling and jealousy. The undercover odd couple is constantly making fun of themselves, whether it’s Tatum bragging he’s the only one in his family who’s ever pretended to go to college, or Hill constantly doing the early-morning walk of shame across the campus.

      They’re surrounded by an oddball assortment of comedians, from Nick Offerman’s grim deputy police chief to the Lucas Brothers’ freakily mind-melded twin roommates to Jillian Bell’s uptight but sarcastic coed, who constantly makes fun of Hill’s age. (“Tell us about the war—any of them.”)

      The Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller come up with a frantic mix of high-concept stunts, slapstick, and deadpan banter, all climaxing—where else?—amid the idiocy of spring break in Mexico. The whole time, 22 Jump Street makes as much fun of frat life, art-student open mikes, and coed bathrooms as it does of the movie’s own repetitiveness.

      Yes, a few of the jokes go on too long or too far, especially the ones that try to play up Ice Cube’s badass rep. But scenes like Hill’s hilariously awkward fight with a girl and a spring-break knockdown where the weapons are a shoulder-riding bikini babe and yard-long beer cups help give 22 its jump—and keep you eager for 23, 24, and 25.