The closing credits of “22 Jump Street” are hilarious.
As images and costumed characters flash in quick succession, it’s almost like eavesdropping on writers as they ping from one idea to the next, feeding off each other’s crazy creativity. The movie preceding it, however, is nowhere near as consistently funny.
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill.
Rating: R for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence.
"22 Jump Street” is the sequel to “21 Jump Street,” itself a takeoff on the Fox television series about baby-faced officers who pretended to be high schoolers to investigate problems such as drug dealing. The 2012 big-screen comedy paired Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as unlikely police partners who botch a bust and are ordered to masquerade as high school students and brothers, infiltrate the dealers and find the supplier of a synthetic, lethal drug.
This time? They botch a bust and must go undercover as college students and brothers to find the dealer of a synthetic, lethal drug. “It’s gonna be super fun, like the last time,” Schmidt (Mr. Hill) says, in one of the movie’s many self-referential lines, as when Jenko (Mr. Tatum) makes a crack about Secret Service agents protecting the president just like in “White House Down.“
In “21 Jump Street,” the nerdy Schmidt clicked with the cool crowd while Jenko improbably fell in with the brainiacs. This time, the pair start off as best buds and roomies but, like high school sweethearts who start to drift apart, find their partnership strained and in danger of dissolving.
Jenko tries out for the football team and hits it off with quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell) who invites him to a rush party for his fraternity. The pair’s bromance is immediate; they can have an entire conversation with just “Bro!” and “Dude!” and they’re a power couple on the field. Schmidt, meanwhile, takes up with a pretty art major, Maya (Amber Stevens), who initially acknowledges, “I don’t even know if I like you when I’m sober.”
When the men are mistaken for a couple — again — Jenko complains that Schmidt is being clingy, while Schmidt is hurt that his partner has found a new best friend and social circle. Other complications surface, and there is still the looming question of who’s peddling the deadly drug on campus.
"22 Jump Street” works the gay angle pretty vigorously, which grows tiresome and briefly takes you out of the movie, given Mr. Hill’s public and seemingly very sincere apology for using a homophobic slur with an aggressive paparazzo. Jenko, more enlightened now that he’s a college boy, even lectures a character over hurtful language.
The odd couple are joined, once more, by Ice Cube as their no-nonsense captain and Nick Offerman as the deputy chief, while Peter Stormare joins the fray as a man consistently on the wrong side of the law.
While ”22 Jump Street,“ directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, tackles some big college set pieces as with a frat party and a spring break blast, it may be funniest in small moments. Watch for a new twist on the morning-after walk of shame or a building named for a late British comedian with a long-running TV show or the zingers aimed at Mr. Hill’s age.
Typical of the movie, though, are the ingenious credits with one final dopey scene after that — You need to sit all the way through to the end to find it. “22 Jump Street“ is a mix of inspired and insipid and that ratio may depend on your age, gender and comic sensibilities.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.