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'22 Jump Street' tells similar jokes, is still funny

RedEye movie critic, music editor

*** (out of four)

It ruins nothing to say that “22 Jump Street” ends with increasingly ridiculous ideas for the next movie. And the next movie. And the next 10 movies after that. If you’re that person who leaps up at the end to go to the bathroom/get the car/tweet a review with five exclamation points, you’re going to want to wait on that. Had “22 Jump Street” been nothing but 100 of these fake movie concepts, I might not complain.

Instead, the sequel to the funny 2012 hit, revived from the late-’80s series starring Johnny Depp, continually references the absurdity of its own existence. “Do the same thing as last time,” demands Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman). “Everyone’s happy.” Other self-referential lines include Schmidt (Jonah Hill) saying his boss’ (Ice Cube) new office looks like a giant cube of ice and Jenko (Channing Tatum) suggesting he and his partner enter the Secret Service and protect the White House (a la Tatum’s entertaining, outrageous “White House Down”).

Once again, the officers attempt to expose a complex drug operation, this time in college instead of high school—which doesn’t stop many people from noting that they’re blatantly too old to pass for freshmen. Regardless, Jenko becomes BFFs with the star quarterback/frat president (Wyatt Russell) and Schmidt sparks a relationship with Maya (Amber Stevens), a missed opportunity for Jenko to have a girlfriend and Schmidt to embrace his outsiderness.

In one of many unfortunately timed gags, Maya continually calls Schmidt “Maya Angelou.” A teacher also does an impression of Tracy Morgan, and Jenko chastises someone for using the six-letter F-word that Hill recently has apologized for using. Hello, irony. “22 Jump Street” dedicates time to tolerance and more time to an endless stream of jokes suggesting a homoerotic bond between Jenko and Schmidt as well as Jenko and Zook (Russell). That can be amusing in very small doses, but directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the awesome “Lego Movie”) deliver a heaping pile.

The first movie’s emotion isn’t duplicated, yet the entertaining buzz is back. So even when “22 Jump Street” returns to bits like the guys taking drugs or being forced to perform, Hill and Tatum remain a hilarious, unusually winning combination. They’re two different flavors of nonsense, worth ordering twice.

Watch Matt review the week's big new movies Fridays at noon on NBC.


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