"22 Jump Street" wholeheartedly embraces the sequel formula, and critics couldn't be happier.
As the follow-up to 2012's blockbuster comedy "21 Jump Street," "22 Jump Street" essentially rehashes everything about its predecessor but does so in a self-referential way that doesn't sacrifice humor.
It helps that the original team is back: Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have returned to the helm, and stars Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are once again playing a pair of hilariously ineffective undercover cops who report to an irritated Ice Cube.
Really, the only thing that's changed is that Tatum's Jenko and Hill's Schmidt are going undercover at a local college instead of a high school. But for once, sticking to the formula has worked.
"22 Jump Street is damn funny, sometimes outrageously so," praises Rolling Stone's Peter Travers. "It laughs at its own dumb logic and invites us in on the fun."
Somehow, the movie "steers blessedly clear of common sequel traps, even while brazenly committing so many of the form's sins," says The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday. "The truth is, the old-married-couple dynamic between the two men is still funny, especially in the deft hands of Hill and Tatum, who have built a comic chemistry worthy of Hope and Crosby --- or at least Lucy and Ethel."
The leading comic duo were also irresistible to New York Times critic Manohla Dargis, who believes that the movie "still tickles a comedy sweet spot partly because both actors are naturally likable and seem to be having a good time."
The only thing that seemed truly worn out were some of the jokes about sexuality, observes Village Voice critic Stephanie Zacharek.
Part of the plot involves Jenko and Schmidt going their separate ways for a while as they fall into different social circles on campus, leading to "numerous homoerotic references to this fading friendship, but only in a 'Totally yankin' your chain, bro!' way," Zacharek says. "It's there that '22 Jump Street' wobbles off the rails. ... The recurring 'gay, not-gay' jokes are neither particularly funny nor insightful, and they push the movie slightly out of whack. ... (But) '22 Jump Street' isn't uncharitable or mean-spirited; at worst, it's just confused."
Despite those flaws, the sequel is projected to perform well at the box office this weekend, with observers betting on an opening of at least $50 million.
And if you're seeing the movie this weekend, here's a tip from The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips: "Be sure to hang around for the closing credits, which imagine all sorts of 'Jump Street' sequels to come, all of which look funnier than 'A Million Ways to Die in the West.'"