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The undercover bromance of '22 Jump Street' and more outdoor film screenings


If the 2007 action comedy “Hot Fuzz,” starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, poked light fun at the homoerotic subtext of “Point Break,” starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, then the new action comedy “22 Jump Street” is its doltish, punch-drunk cousin.

With ludicrously funny action scenes that rely on the ineptness of its undercover cops Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, respectively),“22 Jump Street” gets a lot of mileage out of parodying the buddy-cop genre. But most of the humor in this amiable sequel is spawned from taking the traditional buddy-cop relationship to the level of a romantic comedy. The joke is that everybody can tell it’s getting romantic except the characters themselves.

Just two movies in, it already feels like the “21 Jump Street” franchise — launched two years ago with a movie that held zero reverence for its original source material and was all the better for it — is coasting. It’s hard not to let it off the hook for some of its laziness, though, because it knows it’s coasting.

Like the last movie, the self-aware humor starts right away, as the hard-charging Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) explains that after Schmidt and Jenko’s recent bust, they now have twice the budget. Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) explains that their new assignment — going undercover at a college — will be exactly like the last one, even though everybody knows “it’s never as good the second time.”

It’s tough even to call the thing happening in the background of “22 Jump Street” a police investigation, but the setup has the pair again posing as brothers — with opposite body types who look nothing alike — to bust an underground drug ring selling the hallucinogenic WhyPhy (pronounced Wi-Fi) to students at Metro Community University. It’s really just an excuse to put Schmidt and Jenko in typical college situations and splinter their bro-to-bro harmony.

The satire in “22 Jump Street” isn’t as sharp as its predecessor, and some of the subplots — like Schmidt’s fraternizing with an attractive art student (Amber Stevens) who's way out of his league — don’t pan out with laughs as big as expected, so the movie replies heavily on the easy chemistry of its two leads. Tatum and Hill are game for anything, and their earnest camaraderie carries the comedy through some of its dry patches.

The actual ending of “22 Jump Street” lands with a thud, so make sure you stick around for the end-credit sequence, which satirizes sequels to a ridiculous degree and has more laughs per second than any other part of the film. Ironically, this scene could be interpreted two ways. Either it gives you a teasing hint of just how irreverent the series could get in the future, or it’s an omen that they’ve already done as much with it as they can.

Free Outdoor Movie Series Continues

As part of the ramp-up to the Free State Festival, which officially begins June 25, the Lawrence Arts Center is holding two more free outdoor screenings, following "Stand by Me" last week and the "car art" documentary "Wild Wheels" the week before.

"The Kings of Summer," which plays tonight, is an indie coming-of-age drama about three young boys who build a house in the woods. The movie flew under the radar following its premiere at Sundance last year, and is now finding new audiences through home video and screenings like this one.

On June 20, the Arts Center will screen "The Kid," Charlie Chaplin's 1921 silent classic and his first feature-length film as a director. The movie mixes comedy and sentimental drama as only Chaplin could, and made a star out of Jackie Coogan, who plays the title character.

After The Tramp (Chaplin) finds the abandoned kid on the street, he takes him in and they becomes partners in minor crimes and petty theft as they try to survive. The movie, which holds up even today, was a runaway success in its time, and it set the blueprint for Chaplin's run as the king of silent comedy.

Both films will show just after dark at 9 p.m. at the Lawrence Arts Center.


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