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22 Jump Street

Talk about a meta-movie: the guys behind 22 Jump Street have gotten away with murder, making an action comedy that simply (and brazenly) copies all the ingredients of 21 Jump Street. The joke, which stretches from the first scene to the last, is that both the filmmakers and the characters onscreen acknowledge the conceit. This smug self-awareness is funny for a while, but eventually wears thin—at least, it did for me (if not for the audience at the screening I attended). When a film is long and only intermittently funny I lose patience with self-referential material.

Instead of infiltrating a high school, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum go to college this time, but on an identical mission: to find the source of a powerful new drug being passed around campus. As in the first picture, these misfits get more engaged in being accepted by their classmates than in following the case. Hill is attracted to beautiful student Amber Stevens, while Tatum has a bromance with football star Wyatt Russell (Kurt’s and Goldie Hawn’s son).

The stars are likable, doing what we’ve seen them do before; for most summer audiences that may be good enough. I was more enthusiastic about the supporting cast, especially fast-talking twins Keith and Kenny Lucas and deadpan Jillian Bell, as Stevens’ hostile roommate. They steal every scene they’re in—though in a film this haphazard that may be a minor compliment.

A hip attitude seems to carry some comedies a long way, and if this is a hit then the three writers who fashioned this screenplay (Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman) from Bacall and Jonah Hill’s story may have the right idea after all. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller bring the right energy to the proceedings. But in a world where sequels mean big business, I dread the thought of more slipshod copycat-style movies winking at us while laughing all the way to the bank.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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