Critical Mass: Is '22 Jump Street' tickle or torture?

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Image Credit: Glen Wilson

The first 21 Jump Street reboot movie didn’t just safely navigate the traps and pot holes of cheesy TV adaptations — it made the exercise a breezy art. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum’s odd-couple pairing as two narc cops going undercover at a high school snuck up on critics — a luxury they don’t have at their disposal in the sequel.

But that doesn’t seem to be stopping director Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie) from doubling down on the same comic sensibility. The only thing that’s changed for 22 Jump Street is the setting — college — and the cool-character role reversal — Tatum’s Jenko is now “in,’ while Hill’s Schmidt is “out.” But the “sequel-itis” of Hollywood sequels is now one of the directors’ biggest gags.

The film reportedly is tracking well, and Sony is hoping for a $50 million opening weekend — which is Ted territory. EW’s critic Chris Nashawaty labored under the layers of meta-humor, but at least the stars have the same magic. “Hill and Tatum continue to have such great chemistry,” he writes. “Hill’s neurotic-motormouth act and Tatum’s lovable-lunkhead shtick still shoot giddy sparks.”

Read more from Nashawaty’s review, as well as a round-up of other notable critics, below.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
To cover up the script’s lack of originality, screenwriters Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman pummel us with a string of self-aware meta-commentary jokes that poke fun at bloated sequels. It’s as if they’re trying to beat viewers to the realization that we’re being peddled sloppy seconds.”

Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times)
22 Jump Street is a monument to mocking, a master class in dissing, a parody of pastiche, poking its R-rated finger at social conventions, sequels, stereotypes, football, frats, friends, drugs, sex — even its stars.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
22 Jump Street is exactly what comedy is today. It’s coarse, free-flowing and playful. People talk the way they talk in real life. It has no sentiment of any kind and no phony uplift. … And it’s really funny, not ‘heh-heh’ funny, but laugh-out-loud funny, virtually scene by scene.”

Wesley Morris (Grantland.com)
“[22 Jump Street] is not smart this time as much as it is clever, and that cleverness tips into spottiness and cynical self-congratulation: We have no more use for this series, so why not just blow it up! … 22 feels as jaded as some college kids. Lord and Miller walk a fine line between shrewdness and smugness.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe) ▲
“This is the kind of movie that knows the manly hero has to yell something cool when he throws the grenade — I think it’s the First Law of Bruce Willis — so it might as well be “Something cool!” Lord and Miller simultaneously give us the pleasures of the text and the meta-text, and stupid has rarely seemed so smart.”

Rene Rodriguez (Miami Herald)
“Here is a crazy, goofy comedy that builds in laughs and excitement as it goes along. Lord and Miller (who also co-directed The LEGO Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) aren’t just getting better at comedy: They’re getting better at pure action, too.”

Scott Foundas (Variety)
“Both actors are marvelous physical comedians, and much of 22 Jump Street turns on Laurel-and Hardy-like juxtapositions of Hill’s short, stocky inertia against Tatum’s chiseled, gravity-defying grace. Tatum has been too good too many times now to still be deemed a revelation, but he seems especially boisterous and joyful here.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)
“The old-married-couple dynamic between the two men is still funny, especially in the deft hands of Hill and Tatum, who have built a comic chemistry worthy of Hope and Crosby — or at least Lucy and Ethel.”

Manohla Dargis (New York Times)
“At rest, Mr. Tatum, with his half-mast eyes and a neck as big as a redwood trunk, can bring to mind Ferdinand the Bull, the Spanish peacenik who prefers to sit and smell the flowers instead of fight. Like a lot of musclemen, Mr. Tatum can look almost captive to his body, which makes his grace all the more pleasurable…”

David Edelstein (New York — Vulture)
“I’m on the fence about Hill. He so transparently wants to be regarded as a great actor rather than a great clown that he weighs the movie down. His brooding, paranoid persona worked in This Is the End because he seemed to be poking fun at himself. Here, he just seems … brooding and paranoid.”

Richard Corliss (TIME)
“The problem is that nearly two hours of rationalizing repetition, even by winking at it, can get wearying. … The best comic turns are by the Afro-Asian twins Keith and Kenny Lucas, whose timing is eerie and superb, and by Jillian Bell as Mercedes, the grouchy roommate of Schmidt’s new girlfriend…”

22 Jump Street
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 72
Rotten Tomatoes: 85 percent

Rated: R
Length: 110 minutes
Director: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
Distributor: Sony

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