Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum go back undercover in the raucous comedy sequel 22 Jump Street.
22 JUMP STREET (15)
With a knowing wink and a profusion of expletives, 22 Jump Street abides by the conventions of a sequel and condemns its dim-witted yet loveable protagonists to relive the plot of the original on a vastly inflated budget.
That’s no bad thing.
Tongue-in-cheek, self-referential playfulness abounds in Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s uproarious action-packed comedy, which adheres unabashedly to a winning formula and gleefully colludes with us for various in-jokes and sight gags.
Thus when Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) tells officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) they must return to undercover duties, the latter cutely asks, “What if we went to the Secret Service and had to protect the White House?”
Tatum stops short of holding up a DVD copy of his 2013 blockbuster White House Down and flashing an impish grin to camera.
Wonderful on-screen chemistry between the leads powers the picture through the occasional lull and the scriptwriters have a ball increasing the homoerotic undercurrents of the central bro-mance into an unstoppable flood.
“Maybe we should investigate different people,” contemplates Tatum, flashing those big doe eyes at his partner.
“Are you saying you want an open investigation?” replies Hill, heartbroken.
22 Jump Street opens with Schmidt and Jenko investigating criminal mastermind The Ghost (Peter Stormare) and continuing to be a liability to the public and each other.
After a sting to capture The Ghost goes bad, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) recruits the pair for another hare-brained undercover operation.
This time, they must pose as college students and unmask the suppliers of a drug called W.H.Y.P.H.Y. (Work Hard? Yes! Play Hard? Yes!).
The narcotic has claimed the life of one girl on campus and Dickson wants to prevent W.H.Y.P.H.Y. spreading across the country.
So Schmidt and Jenko adopt their unlikely cover identities and infiltrate different student cliques.
Buff and athletic Jenko becomes a star player on the football team and forges a fraternal bond with kindred spirit Zook (Wyatt Russell).
“We’re like Batman and Robin. But we’re both Batman!” gushes Zook.
Meanwhile, Schmidt dabbles with slam poetry and becomes attracted to spunky student Maya (Amber Stevens), who lives across the hall from the dead girl with her creepy roommate Mercedes (Jillian Bell).
22 Jump Street is as preposterous and laugh-out-loud funny as its predecessor, engineering new perils for the dunderhead double-act as they solve the case with characteristic toe-curling awkwardness.
Plot twists aren’t entirely unexpected but predictability doesn’t spoil our enjoyment one bit as we marvel at Hill and Tatum’s willingness to endure bruising physical pratfalls for our amusement.
Of course, there is a smattering of raunchy gags involving sex toys and male appendages but the script’s sweetness always trumps crudity.
Hilarious cameos are peppered throughout, even in an extended end credits sequence that suggests Schmidt and Jenko might have a couple more undercover cases in them yet.
GRACE OF MONACO (PG)
Olivier Dahan’s fictionalised account of a turbulent year in the life of Hollywood actress Grace Kelly begins with newsreel footage of the Oscar-winning star’s lavish wedding to Prince Rainier III.
Grainy black and white images are complemented by effusive voiceover, which glowingly predicts the blonde starlet is “destined to live happily ever after with her charming prince”.
Alas, the fairytale doesn’t deliver a happy ever after for Grace Of Monaco, which must have required several blood transfusions following the barrage of razor-sharp critical barbs that greeted the film’s premiere in Cannes last month.
Undeniably, Dahan’s picture lacks substance and some of his directorial choices are misjudged, such as photographing the porcelain features of Nicole Kidman in soft-focus close-up for every pivotal scene of emotional turmoil.
His camera drifts woozily between her bloodshot eyes and puckered lips as she delivers Arash Amel’s melodramatic script.
The year is 1962 and it has been six years since Grace (Kidman) married Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth) and retired from acting to assume her role as glamorous figurehead of the European principality of Monaco.
Alfred Hitchcock, who directed Grace in Rear Window, Dial M For Murder and To Catch A Thief, arrives in Monaco to persuade her to play the kleptomaniac heroine in Marnie.
“It’s going to be the role of a lifetime, Gracie!” the filmmaker predicts.
Closer to home, president Charles de Gaulle (Andre Penvern) intends to reclaim the principality and demands the citizens of Monaco pay their tax coffers into French pockets.
“You agree to my terms or I will send Monaco back to the Dark Ages,” de Gaulle threatens, stopping short of a throaty pantomime villain guffaw.
Thus Grace must choose between personal dreams and regal responsibilities, with guidance from ex-pat holy man Father Francis (Frank Langella).
It’s hard to muster sympathy for anyone in Grace Of Monaco – not the self-serving bureaucrats nor the privileged social set, who savour the trappings of wealth, birth right and celebrity.
Kidman attempts to capture Kelly’s vocal patterns but she’s poorly served by the script when it comes to layering her breathy delivery with emotion.
Roth is lacklustre and Langella lends gravitas to an endless supply of hoary sermons (“At some point, every fairytale must end!”)
For its myriad failings, including an infuriating inability to address Kelly’s relationship with her children, which is supposedly the catalyst for her inner turmoil, the film has fleeting pleasures.
Gigi Lepage’s costumes are gorgeous, allowing Kidman to change attire with dizzying frequency, and when juicy dialogue is scant, the supporting cast merrily chew on scenery.
It’s a toss-up between Robert Lindsay’s portrayal of Aristotle Onassis and Ashton-Griffiths’ jowly take on Hitchcock who leaves the deepest teeth marks.