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The Current Cinema: 22 Jump Street

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Latest sequel is an amusing effort

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Using ideas from 80s television, and revamping them for the modern moviegoer demographic most sought after, has become common practice with current mainstream cinema And when the project becomes a box office hit, a sequel is inevitable.

In "21 Jump Street," Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum portrayed an odd couple buddy dynamic who, as semi-skilled police officers, go undercover as high schoolers to ferret out wrongdoers. The interesting concept presented by the filmmakers is to show how the high school climate had changed in the years since the two actually attended. The lumbering jock had become a plodding stereotype, while the nerd had emerged as a new definition of coolness. Thus, Tatum had to deal with being the outcast while Hill was the more desired personality.

The sequel puts the characters in college. The social playing field is more vast, and there is room for the jock and for the nerd. Tatum's character gets in with the football crowd, able to exhibit his past prowess on the gridiron, while the Hill character becomes involved with an attractive coed (Amber Stevens) who turns out to be the daughter of his boss (Ice Cube).

As with the first film, "22 Jump Street" is structurally uneven, wavering from gag sequence, to serious investigation footage, to some pretty ham-handed moments attempting to define relationships. There is an inevitable gay subtext to the lead characters' relationships, and it is played for edgy laughs as they discuss their partnership as cops as if it were a romantic relationship. A few in-jokes pop up, including a cameos of Dustin Nguyen and Richard Grieco (identified as Booker, no less) and Queen Latifah as Ice Cube's wife (and Stevens' mother) referring to herself as "straight outta Compton." The end credits promise years of sequels, but goes on a bit too long. Finally, a parallel lobster sequence between Tatum and Hill and, later, between Tatum and Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) is lifted from Woody Allen's "Annie Hall," and might be well over the heads of the film's intended demographic.

The movie is harmless nonsense, with no pretensions beyond its base entertainment value. It succeeds admirably. Tatum's amiable dumbbell and Hill's tentative insecurity plays well without seeming tedious or overdone. Ice Cube appears to be having a lot of fun in scenes where he can exhibit his suppressed rage and his explosive volatility (both used in a comic context). Russell and Stevens do just fine. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller continue their promising career making solid entertainment vehicles ("21 Jump Street," "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," "The Lego Movie").

"22 Jump Street" is Rated R and runs 112 minutes.

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