"Do the same thing as last time, everyone's happy," says Nick Offerman as Deputy Chief Hardy in "22 Jump Street." He's describing the new sting operation spearheaded by officers Schmidt and Jenko, first played by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 2012's "21 Jump Street." Clearly, though, he's also describing this disappointing sequel. "As if spending twice the money guaranteed twice the profits," he scoffs.
A send-up of the hokey television show about cops and youth culture, "21 Jump Street" proved a hit, driven partly by fond mockery of the 1980s (series star Johnny Depp made a cameo) and by the unexpected chemistry between the doughy Hill and the chiseled Tatum. Directed with loosey-goosey energy by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller ("The Lego Movie"), who return here, "21 Jump Street" struck a balance between pop satire and character-based comedy.
A sequel was inevitable, and that's how "22 Jump Street" feels, despite the screenwriters' consistent admission of their own lameness. They replace the first film's high-school backdrop with college, then force Schmidt to note that it's "literally the exact same case." There are a few inspired moments (Jillian Bell, of HBO's "Eastbound & Down," plays a mercilessly sarcastic co-ed, and Ice Cube gets to wig out as Captain Dickinson), but the movie is crammed with jokes about how bad sequels are. And guess what? Exactly.
There's another way "22 Jump Street" tries to have its cake and eat it. Hill recently hurled a gay epithet at a paparazzo and then publicly apologized, which is basically what movies like this have been doing for years. As a bromance, "22 Jump Street" is essentially one long gay joke, in which straight males play their mutual affection for laughs, then nod glancingly to political correctness. Here, the jockish Jenko, newly sensitized by a Human Sexuality class, objects loudly to a villain's gay slur. The best apology, for that joke and for this sequel, would have been not to make it in the first place.
PLOT Two cops pose as college students to bust a drug ring.
RATED R (language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence)
CAST Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
BOTTOM LINE The loosey-goosey magic of the first movie is gone, replaced by endless jokes about disappointing sequels. Point proven.
TV COP SHOWS THAT BECAME MOVIES
"21 Jump Street" is one of the few TV cop shows that not only was turned into an arresting movie, but it spawned a sequel. These other police series made into films, however, didn't land on anyone's most wanted list.
DRAGNET (1987) -- Just the facts: This pairing of Dan Aykroyd (in Jack Webb's TV role as stone-faced, by-the-book police Sgt. Joe Friday) and Tom Hanks as his laid-back partner was a criminal waste of both actors' talents.
CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU? (1994) -- The hilarious '60s vehicle that starred Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne as inept Bronx cops Toody and Muldoon was turned into this '90s junk heap with David Johansen and John C. McGinley. Don't ask what Toody's cries of "Ooo! Ooo!" now meant.
STARSKY & HUTCH (2004) -- "The Hangover" director Todd Phillips helmed this big-screen parody of the '70s cop show with Ben Stiller as Starsky and Owen Wilson as Hutch. It nailed the decade's bad hair and clothes, and yet, the TV series still seemed funnier.
MIAMI VICE (2006) -- Michael Mann played it straight with this version of the '80s cop show with Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett and Jamie Foxx as Ricardo Tubbs. Everyone expected a hit, but it was "Vice" versa.
-- Daniel Bubbeo