I know, I know, go on and say it — I’m getting to the party pretty late with this one and anyone who wants to see 22 Jump Street has probably already done so. Fair enough. But, see, that’s the reason I’m getting to it so late — I had absolutely no interest in catching this flick three years from now on a boring Saturday afternoon in the middle of winter, much less paying to watch it on the big screen, but last weekend my brother wanted to go see a movie, this was playing at the local discount house up the street (the historic Riverview on 38th Street in south Minneapolis), and so we went. Better late than never, right?
Actually, um, no. I admit I wasn’t expecting much from this flick, but even by the admittedly dire standards of the Hollywood “bromance comedy,” this is atrocious, unfunny, subpar stuff with absolutely nothing going for it.
Let me qualify that statement, though, for the sake of fairness — it has nothing going for it unless you’re into movies loaded down with self-referential “in-jokes” that make fun of the production itself on a “meta” level, or movies with tired-ass “say no to drugs” messages, or movies that make incompetent cops look like harmless nincompoops rather than walking, breathing weapons of potential mass destruction (ask the folks in Ferguson if inept, bungling, cover-your-ass policework is a laughing matter), or movies loaded with lowest-common-denominator racial and sexual “humor” designed to already divide a fractured society along cultural fault lines under the thin veneer of “uniting us in shared laughter.” If you enjoy any — or all — of that bullshit, then I’m sure you’ll find 22 Jump Street a rollicking good time, even if half (or more) of the jokes fall completely flat even under the risible set of circumstances I just outlined.
Anyway, here’s the deal, plot-wise : Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back as undercover 21st-century Keystone Kops Schmidt and Jenko, respectively, Ice Cube is back as their boss in another role poking fun at his formerly-bad-ass-image, and this time his two charges are headed off to college to bust up a new “designer drug” ring rather than doing it in high school again like, I take it, they did in the first film (which I haven’t seen). Stupid shit happens, Jenko ends up on the football team, Schmidt ends up fucking Ice Cube’s daughter (played by Amber Stevens), and just when you think this steaming pile of racist, misogynist dogshit is over, they tack on about another half-hour to send the gang down to spring break in Mexico, and set this film’s place in history as the only spring break movie ever without so much as one naked female breast on display.
That’s about it as far as restraint goes, though, in this little opus from co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who, I take it, helmed 2012’s 21 Jump Street as well). Subtle is just not a word in these guys’ vocabulary. Shit, even at the end they keep piling it on as the credits roll, showing us one purportedly “funny” undercover scenario after another for our two “heroes,” wearing out the gag’s welcome to a degree that anyone with two functioning brain cells would consider cruel.
And then it hit me — the “two-functioning-brain-cells” crowd isn’t who flicks like this are made for. Nor is that the “target audience” for anything coming out of Hollywood’s blockbuster comedy machine these days. Dear God, there’s an entire generation of comedy “stars” who would be flipping burgers or digging ditches for a living if the public at large had any taste. Roll call : Johan Hill, Channing Tatum, Seth Rogen, Seann William Scott, Andy Samberg, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, James Franco, Danny McBride, Owen Wilson, Zack Galifianikis, Melissa McCarthy, Steve Carrell, David Spade, and the worst offenders of all, the wretchedly untalented Vince Vaughn and Adam Sandler.
Whew! I’m exhausted just from pouring out that list, and I’m sure it’s not even a comprehensive one. Point is : none of these people are funny, they never have been, and they never will be.
Look, I have no desire to sound like a curmudgeon (whoops, too late!), but we’ve got to face facts here : the state of the Hollywood comedy is no laughing matter. We’re in deep trouble. This shit is stupid, these supposed “A-listers” can’t carry a film, and the “demographic” they’re pitching this crap to is, plain and simple, the idiot crowd. If a truly inventive and talented comic performer like Bill Murray, or Richard Pryor, or Gene Wilder, or the late, great Robin Williams came along today, Hollywood wouldn’t have the first idea how to utilize their talents. “Come back to us with some fat jokes or fart jokes and we’ll see if we can’t find you some work. Oh, and do you know how to make fun of Mexicans? That’s always good for a laugh.”
Honestly, news coverage of wars or humanitarian disasters is funnier than tripe like 22 Jump Street. Just because a film is openly aware of its own absurdity doesn’t make it instantly less absurd in and of itself — in fact, quite the reverse, because it gives lazy filmmakers a crutch — “let’s admit we’re stupid so we can spend the whole rest of the movie making fun of how stupid we are.” The most talented folks in the comedy game have always understood how to point out and lampoon all of life’s admitted absurdities without insulting the intelligence of their audience. This new crop today? They think you’re such a lame-brained asshole that they can spend two hours calling you a lame-brained asshole to your face and you won’t even get upset because, hey, they’re saying that they’re lame-brained assholes, too!
If you want to keep playing along with this ruse, that’s your business, but I’m through with it. This is the last mainstream Hollywood comedy I see — even at discount prices — until they get their shit together.