Movie review: 22 Jump Street

Movie review: 22 Jump Street
Cops Channing Tatum (right) and Jonah Hill go undercover as college students.

The story: The success of the 21 Jump Street high school drug-ring bust brings undercover cops Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) back under the supervision of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). The pair infiltrate MC State as college students, seeking the source of a potent narcotic, Whyphy.

On the Media Development Authority's classification website, this comedy is listed as "edited", with no details given.

It is not hard to see why a cut (or perhaps more) had to be made. Like its predecessor, 21 Jump Street (2012), this work pushes the limits of the M18 rating.

Like the first movie, the second finds its censor-provoking humour in the tell, not the show.

There is a running gag about fists and a convict offers to pull down his pants to show off his post-operation sex change.

This is talky comedy, filled with swearing, homo-erotic innuendo and vivid sexual description.

In that respect, it will remind audiences of Jonah Hill's other comedic work with Judd Apatow, who had a hand in Hill's Knocked Up (2007), Superbad (2007) and more.

This is Apatow-lite, jokes for under-25s, containing far less self-hatred and in which all the women are uncomplicated. Jokes about excreta are also absent (except for one instance in which a body fluid is mentioned but not shown).

In place of the Apatow mode of men riffing loosely about being let down by their sex organs, there is a lot of indirect self-referencing.

The film mocks its own absurd premise, that two 30ish-looking men can pass off as college-age students. Characters talk about how sequels are cynical cash grabs and cost a lot more to make, and there are even nods to Ice Cube's previous life as a provocative rap artist.

More than a few of the jokes break the fourth wall, a sign of confidence in the audience and in the franchise.

However, the cockiness might be premature.

This work is not as humorous as the first movie and adding self-mocking jabs about bigger explosions and props is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Some jokes feel gratingly old-fashioned and lazy, for example, in an overlong bit about a father melting down after finding out about his daughter's sexual activity.

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have proven themselves with hits Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (2009) and this year's The Lego Movie - family films that are smart, funny and just sentimental enough. Their raunchy side, however, needs schooling.

johnlui@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 21, 2014.
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