Two years ago, "21 Jump Street" found humor not just from lampooning the source material of the '80s TV series, but by poking fun at itself. That poking continues in "22 Jump Street" with plenty of self-deprecating jokes about how sequels are never as good as the original.
"22 Jump Street" uses the exact same plot as the original film — two police officers (Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum) go undercover as students — except instead of sending the bungling cop buddies into high school, they head off to college. Just like before, their police work takes a back seat to the joy and misery each finds on campus.
There are some funny moments in "22 Jump Street" (especially the hilarious closing credits), but most of the film comes across as bloated. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller allow scenes to play on long after the joke has been made. And they keep falling into the trap of returning to the same joke, like how the police partners look at their professional relationship as if they were a longtime dating couple. The first time they bicker is amusing. But by the time they are trying to decide if it's OK if they "investigate other people," the material is as wasted as an "MC State" senior on spring break.
The pacing of the film slows to a crawl with countless scenes of Tatum's character training and playing football. No one seems to understand the undercover part of the plot is of no interest. The focus should have been more on the pair being two old fish out of water.
Because Hill and Tatum are forced to revisit old jokes or endure the uncertainties of the directors as to when to cut and move on, the most interesting performances come from the supporting cast.
Ice Cube reprises his role as the screaming boss of the undercover cops. His performance is funny enough as a parody of all the screaming bosses in buddy cop movies and TV shows, but it gets an extra kick when he pokes fun at the excessiveness that often comes with sequels. In an ode to budget woes, he points out that he's wearing $800 shoes and you can't even see his feet during a loud moment in his office.
Jillian Bell steals the movie with her barrage of jokes about Hill's character being old. Her rapid-fire comic blasts make her the most interesting character in the movie.
"22 Jump Street" falls short when it rehashes the same story and jokes that worked the first time around. When the film turns to new material and characters, it's fun to watch. There's just not enough of those new comic moments.
"22 Jump Street," rated R for language, drug use, sexual content. Stars Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell. Directed by Phil Lord, Chris Miller. Running time: 105 minutes. Grade: C+