22 Jump Street

Self-referential comedy sequel with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill

22 Jump Street

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Directed by Phil Lord, Chris Miller. Starring Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Dave Franco, Nick Offerman, Ice Cube, Peter Stormare, Rob Riggle, Richard Grieco, Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens. Written by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman, from the TV series created by Patrick Hasburgh & Stephen J. Cannell.

There’s one running joke in 22 Jump Street, only fitfully funny, which is carried out through the length of the film: the redundancy of sequels. This is self-referential comedy taken to the extreme, and while I smirked every now and then when the characters mentioned how everything should be just like it was last time, the fact that the film knows that it is redundant doesn’t exactly make it any more relevant. 

21 Jump Street was a ribald comic remake of the popular late-80s TV cop show that launched Johnny Depp into stardom (Depp had a memorable cameo in the previous film, and some more familiar faces for fans of the series pop up this time around). It touched upon all the familiar undercover-cops-in-high-school themes, but boasted a talented cast and a wildly irreverent streak that helped pick things up when the formula started to drag. 

22 Jump Street could have used more of the irreverence. Johah Hill and Channing Tatum return as detectives Schmidt and Jenko, who open the film by mishandling a deal involving a shipment of illegal animals, allowing crime lord “The Ghost” (played by Peter Stormare) to escape. 

“This ain’t working…” police captain Dickson (Ice Cube) tells them. “They want more of what happened last time.” ‘They’ refers to the higher-ups, but also not-too-subtly to the expected audience for this film. It’s a joke you’ll hear another two dozen times throughout the film, but I don’t think anyone really wants exactly the same movie as last time, except for the producers of this movie, who have a clear template to easy profit. The self-referential sequel gags aren’t especially funny, but the producers are probably laughing all the way to the bank. 

Schmidt and Jenko are too old to play high-schoolers this time around, so instead Dickson sends them undercover into college, where they need to find the supplier of the new designer drug WHYPHY before it spreads to other campuses (you know the Wi-Fi joke is coming once you hear the name, but it’s still worth a chuckle once it arrives). 

Last time around, 21 Jump Street subverted expectations by making the nerdy Schmidt the popular new kid in school, while the hunky Jenko became an unlikely outcast. 22 Jump Street subverts your expectations from the previous film, and comes full circle to the original cliché: here, Tatum’s meathead fits right in with the fraternity jocks, while Hill’s character struggles to fit in.

Like the last film, Tatum displays a real flair for comic timing: one of the film’s best gags involves a slow-burn revelation as we watch the gears churning in his character’s head, underscored by a ticking clock on the soundtrack (the film could have used more inventive bits like this). The film is at its best when Tatum is paired with Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell), who plays a fellow jock; the two share a genuine Dumb-and-Dumber charisma.

Hill’s character, meanwhile, is tasked with the most of the plot development: his character tackles both the nitty-gritty of the detective work, a romantic subplot with Maya (Amber Stevens), and separation-anxiety thematic material when his character and Tatum’s are on the outs. As always, Hill is likable, but he gets less of a chance to show off his comedic chops compared to last time around. 

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have returned to the series after the first installment, but they had a much more successful hit earlier in the year with The Lego Movie. That film showed some real creativity and imagination in both the story and technique, elements that are lacking here. While 22 Jump Street knows that it is another by-the-numbers sequel, that doesn’t save it from playing out as one. 


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