It’s impossible, even foolish, to take seriously a sequel to a reboot of a late ’80s TV show.
Thankfully, the makers of “22 Jump Street” know this — so they turn the effort into a riotous cop comedy that’s never funnier than when it mocks its own existence.
In case you forgot the first movie — and there’s a helpful “Previously on ‘21 Jump Street’ ” at the start here to refresh your memory — mismatched Metro City cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) went undercover in a high school to find a drug dealer. Now, they’re after another drug kingpin, called The Ghost (Peter Stormare), and having little success.
Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) isn’t thrilled about the added budget for the “Jump Street” undercover program, “as if spending twice the money guaranteed twice the profit.” Still, he tells Schmidt and Jenko to “do the same thing as last time, and everybody’s happy.” Hmmm, is he still talking about policework, or the movie itself?
The cops arrive at their new headquarters — in an abandoned church across the street from the abandoned church they occupied in the first film — which has been tricked out with the ridiculously large budget. Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube) gives them their new assignment: Go undercover at Metro City University and uncover who’s supplying students with a new street drug, called Why-Phy.
As in the first movie, the investigation drives a wedge between the cop pals. Jenko is drawn into the fraternity scene, where he finds a bro partner in the school’s star quarterback, Zook (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn). Schmidt hangs out with the art students and strikes sparks with the lovely Maya (Amber Jenkins).
Returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, working off a tag-teamed script (by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman, with Bacall and Hill getting story credit), generate maximum laughs by, yes, going to what worked before. The nerd-vs.-jock comic chemistry of Hill and Tatum is as strong as ever, and the filmmakers approach cop-show conventions with a refreshing lack of respect.
Lord and Miller also support the Hill/Tatum combo with some funny supporting players, such as the comic twins Keith and Kenny Lucas as dorm-room neighbors and “Saturday Night Live” writer Jillian Bell as Maya’s acerbic roommate.
You could say Lord and Miller have created, with “22 Jump Street,” the second-funniest comedy of the year so far — the funniest being the movie they released back in February, “The LEGO Movie.” Whatever audience they aim for, these guys hit the mark.
‘22 Jump Street’
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return in a hilarious deconstruction of cop-movie clichés that even mocks itself.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • R for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence.
Running time • 112 minutes.