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‘Jump Street’ Is a Winner if It Can Stop at ‘22’

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jonah Hill, from left, Ice Cube, and Channing Tatum in Columbia Pictures' "22 Jump Street." (AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Glen Wilson)

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jonah Hill, from left, Ice Cube, and Channing Tatum in Columbia Pictures' "22 Jump Street." (AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Glen Wilson)

Remember that sinking feeling when the realization hit that The Hangover II was just a straight-up shakedown? That it was just a money grab that assaulted and left for dead the audience’s love for the original probably so someone in Hollywood could buy another Tesla?

Well, that’s not going to happen with 22 Jump Street, an equally unnecessary sequel that has one major saving grace: it has as many laughs as spring in Texas has tornadoes. The whole thing — from the mock, TV-episode opening (“previously on 21 Jump Street ”) to the wickedly inspired closing credits imagining future sequels — it’s almost as nice as a surprise as finding out someone has deposited a thousand bucks in your bank account.

It helps that the original directors (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller), main writer (Michael Bacall), and the core of the cast (Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube) are back. It helps that they’ve returned with tongues so far in cheek they might have swallowed them, coming up with a movie that is both stone-head stupid and a whip-smart commentary on sequels in a summer season full of them. More than that though, it’s just plain funny.

Once again, Tatum and Hill are Jenko and Schmidt, undercover cops who — after the death of a student linked to a new synthetic drug — are infiltrating a campus to find out who’s dealing, except this time it’s in college, not high school. If that sounds suspiciously like the plot from the first film, well, that’s the point.

In the process, Jenko becomes a football star and finds a new BFF in teammate Zook (Wyatt Russell), who also just happens to be one of the main suspects. And Schmidt falls in wide-eyed love with Maya (Amber Stevens), who just happens to live across the hall from where the deceased lived and has even taken in her former neighbor’s roommate, Mercedes (a hilarious Jillian Bell, the TV series Workaholics ).

All the while, Jenko and Schmidt’s humorless boss (N.W.A.-mean Ice Cube, not Are We There Yet? Ice Cube) is on their tail for results. Cube almost steals the movie with a brief but brilliant scene in a restaurant buffet line.

But the Cube has a lot of competition for most memorable moment: Hill’s version of slam poetry, for instance. It’s very much the comedic chemistry between Tatum and Hill — whether it’s in their wordplay or physical humor — that really makes Jump Street explode. While it’s easy to knock Tatum in other roles, he’s pitch-perfect here as the jock sidekick.

It all ends — as every summer sequel worth its stuntmen budget should — with a big chase and shootout and that aforementioned promise of at least a decade’s worth of sequels. (Be sure to stay through the credits and keep an eye out for a few cameos.)

Maybe it shouldn’t be shocking that 22 Jump Street is as good as it is. After all, Lord and Miller are responsible for the well-regarded children’s films Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and The Lego Movie. They have pop-culture smarts and a sense of visual energy, know a thing or two about comedic timing, and certainly seem to be on a roll.

But they probably really shouldn’t push their luck and make any of those Jump Street sequels. Anyone up for watching The Hangover III again? Yeah, didn’t think so.

22 Jump Street is rated R (strong language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity, some violence)