Chasing drug dealers on a college campus instead of at a high school this time, undercover cops Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are still trying to pass as brothers, even though Jenko is a virile side of beef and Schmidt is …
Well, what are any of us compared to Tatum?
Legs and lungs. A barely suppressed yawn of the human genome.
One could go on.
It is, in fact, all too easy to underestimate Tatum as an actor simply because he has such a striking physical presence and, more importantly, because he belongs in that small but blessed company of performers who seem to do their job out of plain enjoyment – and to give plain enjoyment – without a detailed game plan that culminates someday with an Oscar. Or two.
Hill, on the other hand, is the funnier actor. He has a more complicated technique, or maybe he's simply a more complicated person. The thing is that he can express neurosis, discomfort and unhappiness without derailing a joke. If anything, those are all part of his delivery.
There's something Ren and Stimpy about their pairing, or even Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, assuming that Don Quixote was pretty much cool with whatever might happen in their adventures.
The actors have pared their repartee down to a series of broken-off sentences and questions and, when all ordinary verbal communications fails, baffled looks and inadequate gestures. It's an excellent team performance.
This sequel is largely a set of variations on 21, and as long as many of them work (and they do) there's no cause to be unhappy. Even if the extended drug-trip gag isn't quite as good this time, it's still a good drug-trip gag.
The dumb comedy was once a fairly grubby but pleasantly disposable product – you could include John Candy's Going Berserk (1983) or Chris Elliott's Cabin Boy (1994) – but over time a much higher level of writing, production and performance elevated such movies.
To a degree, anyway. Anchorman is probably the masterpiece of stupid-smart. It includes subtitled dialogue between a dog and a bear.
Like that and many other dumb-smart comedies, 22 can feel like the work of alien beings of superior intelligence learning how to behave like cavemen, but you nonetheless are grateful for the care and professionalism behind it.
Bromance and Twins22 dwells, for some reason, almost to the point of obsession on the theme of bromance and male bonding: Jenko, joining the football team, forms a bond that borders on the homoerotic with a fellow player, and the movie includes not one but two sets of identical twins (including comedians Keith and Kenny Lucas, as dorm mates).
But this eventually comes to feel like something out a Mike Myers movie: There's no joke that can't be beaten until it's dead, then beaten just a little bit more and brought back to life.
22 does have one great surprise, actress Jillian Bell.
Bell plays a dour coed who has a habit of showing up like the ghost from The Ring and mocking Hill for being so transparently older than anyone else on campus. (She and Hill engage in foreplay that couldn't be more awkward if they were in a plunging elevator.)
She's so funny, Tatum and Hill graciously cede the movie to her.