Despite being proven horribly wrong when 21 Jump Street film came out and it turned out to be hilarious instead of horrible I was once again a doubter when news hit that 22 Jump Street was coming along. The first one worked and here comes the obligatory sequel that will just recap all the old jokes and ruin it was my line of thinking.
Sometimes it’s good to be wrong… twice. I suppose I shouldn’t have been so suspect with basically the entire creative team returning for the film, but how was I supposed to know they’d actually make a comedy sequel that was both different from the original and smart in its own way. It’s not something movie studios usually do, but both Jump Street films have proven that the series (please let there be more) is all about pointing out or expectations and then destroying them.
22 Jump Street
Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Release Date: June 13, 2014
What’s 22 Jump Street about? The same thing 21 Jump Street is about except in college — a fact that the film plays with wonderfully throughout the movie. Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are back under the purview of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) and this time, as the end of the first one predicted (but not really), they’re assigned to bust up a drug ring in a state college despite both of them once again looking far too old for the job. Things go exactly how you’d expect them to go in a buddy cop comedy, and normally that’s a drawback, but here it’s genius.
22 Jump Street‘s irreverent take on the bromance/action film is so meta and self aware that its cliches become a giant running gag of fantastic proportions. It’s in on the joke and it works brilliantly because of it. Unlike the first film, which twisted the formula wonderfully by actually dealing with social structures of high school, this one goes all out stereotype. By completely diving into its ludicrous premise with both smart and ridiculous humor that both mocks and enjoys film tropes 22 Jump Street keeps the jokes from getting stupid and the premise from getting stale.
Tatum and Hill are just fantastically funny together as well. It takes a lot of skill to play off of each other this well, but they’ve got it. While Tatum’s comic chops may have been a bit of surprise last time around this time he’s upped his game ten fold. Some of the best scenes in the film play off of his character and he nails it. One in particular had me nearly rolling on the floor it was so well done. Hill meanwhile plays a perfect straight man (kind of) to Tatum’s idiot and the scenes of them bromancing it up are simply fantastic because the two play with a trope so well it doesn’t matter if it should be dead.
There are a few plotting issues with the film especially as it starts off assuming you’re going to be laughing your ass off at everything. An opening sequence with an octopus attack had me very worried they’d jumped the shark. It’s a hilarious movie, but it does take a bit to warm up. Or actually it just takes an early Nick Offerman cameo and then things are really rolling. Plus directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have crammed this movie so full of subtle (and not so subtle) references, cameos and homages that it would take even the most studious viewer a few viewings to pick up on everything (Benny Hill references for the win!).
What 22 Jump Street loses from 21 Jump Street is the depth and depiction of an actual high school. That was something unique to the first film that unfortunately, and quite possibly necessarily, gets ditched for dumb hi-jinks here. Cliches are played into far more often and it works because the film is smart about it, but this movie definitely doesn’t try as hard as its predecessor. Except at being R-rated. It definitely tries hard and succeeds at that, which is actually a refreshing thing in a world full of raunchy comedies trying to skirt the line of PG-13.
Diverging from its predecessor isn’t actually an entirely bad thing. It makes the film different and the worst thing a comedy sequel can do is be the same. 22 Jump Street isn’t. It’s its own comedy and that’s what makes it work. That and the smarts to be know just how dumb it is.