A film review by Craig J. Koban June 20, 2014 

22 JUMP STREET jjj
 

2014, R, 112 mins.

 

Jonah Hill as Schmidt  /  Channing Tatum as Jenko  /  Ice Cube as Captain Dickson  /  Dave Franco as Eric Molson  /  Nick Offerman as Deputy Chief Hardy  /  Peter Stormare as Big Meat  /  Rob Riggle as Mr. Walters  / Wyatt Russell as Benji  /  Amber Stevens as Maya  /  Jillian Bell as Brandi  /  Jimmy Tatro as Mandy Pandy

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller  /  Written by Michael Bacall

“Just do the same thing you did last last time and everyone will be happy!” 

So screams Ice Cube’s hysterically hostile police Captain Dickson to the heroes in an opening scene in 22 JUMP STREET, which is, yes, the sequel to 2012’s 21 JUMP STREET.  You may recall that in the first film – which was an affectionate skewering of not only of the 1987 Stephen J. Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh TV series of the same name, but also of the laughable extremes of the buddy/cop action film genre - Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) were placed undercover as high school students to infiltrate a nasty drug dealer.  Now, they are forced to do pretty much the same assignment, but only this time in college, where a new designer drug called “WhyFy” (not to be confused with WiFi) has killed one student.  

21 JUMP STREET took great relish in mocking the stale and tired conventions of action films.  It was very self-aware without coming off as smugly so, which is a tough dichotomy to pull off.  22 JUMP STREET is a sequel that goes completely out of its way to acknowledge that it’s a blockbuster Hollywood sequel, complete with larger production values, a vastly higher budget, and a need to top the first film in every department.  Part of the charm of 22 JUMP STREET – much like its antecedent – lies with the amount of jokes it piles up at the expense of how wrongheaded movie sequels are; everyone…from directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to Hill and Tatum to, yes, even the audience itself…is in on the central gag of this film.   This is hammered home very early in the film when Schmidt and Jenko go to their new headquarters at 22 Jump Street (which replaces the now Korean-owned church on 21 Jump Street, forcing a relocation), which is a Vietnamese Church.  It’s also a lavishly high tech command center for no real reason, other than the fact that Captain Dickson has been given carte blanche to have an HQ that’s “twice as expensive” as the one from the first film, complete with a glassed walled office that looks like, ahem, a “cube of ice.” 

 

 

The inspired absurdity of the film’s humor directed at the foibles of sequel-itis does not end there; they just continue to gloriously snowball and build strong comic momentum.  After reacquainting themselves with their boss, Schmidt and Jenko are sent off to college on their new assignment to carry out the “same mission” as before: find the dealer of WhyFy and find and shut down the supplier.  Of course, and much like in 21 JUMP STREET, the bumbling duo barely pass for boys in their late teens, so they decide to blend in as much as possible in the local college scene.  Schmidt becomes smitten with Maya (Amber Stevens) and has a meet-cute with her at a slam poetry reading event, whereas Jenko revisits his jock roots (that he was forced to abandon in his last mission) and strikes up a friendship with football quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt).  Much like before, Schmidt and Jenko get in too deep with acclimatizing themselves to college life, which has the negative effect of straying them off track on their mission.  Predictably, this causes riffs in their cop bromance, and even bigger riffs with their increasingly angry boss that wants results ASAP. 

I have read some reviews of 22 JUMP STREET that have complained that the film just regurgitates the same elements of the first film.  They miss the point altogether.  22 JUMP STREET is funny primarily because of its repetitious manner.  Lord and Miller are as adept as any filmmakers working today at self-referential irony (see THE LEGO MOVIE from earlier this year) and they manage to provide in 22 JUMP STREET precisely what modern filmgoers demand in sequels while simultaneously condemning them for it.  There are very few screen comedies that can invite viewers in to laugh at the film and then perhaps at themselves and their ever-diminishing tastes.  The sheer ridiculousness of movie sequels is hammered home time and time again in the film, and right from the very get-go in a opening action sequence involving the heroes and a 18-wheeler that’s so bloated and over-the-top you want to roll your eyes in affectionate incredulity.  As far as meta films go, 22 JUMP STREET winks so hard at viewers it’s likely to suffer from permanent facial paralysis. 

Many may also overlook just how good of an on-screen pair Hill (also serving as producer and co-writer) and Tatum are in these films.  Hill plays his spontaneous, fast-talking, yet deeply insecure Schmidt with the right level of loveable cluelessness, and Tatum – an actor that I’ve never really admired in dramatic roles – manages to crush it in just about every scene he’s in as his perpetually dimwitted knucklehead (he just seems more in his performance comfort zone and at ease when he’s making a complete ass of himself).  Hill and Tatum, obviously enough, have had the opportunity to build on their chemistry over the course of two films, but it’s undeniable present in 22 JUMP STREET and carries the film.  The actors also are quite game at playing up to the rampant homoerotic undertones of their friendship, especially when an unlikely bromance triangle, if I can call it that, forms between them and the hunky and charismatic Zook that makes Schmidt insanely jealous.  

Even when some of the wink-wink, nudge-nudge gags don’t hit their intended marks, there are nonetheless still more that are right on point in 22 JUMP STREET.  There’s an extended drug trip sequence, during which time Schmidt and Jenko accidentally overdose on WhyFy and hallucinate in all manners preposterous.  I laughed uncontrollably when Tatum’s lunkhead tries to cut glass…with a laser pointer…while infiltrating a frat house.  Hill hits a comedic home run when he manages to rhyme “Jesus cried” with the film RUNAWAY BRIDE during an inspired bit of hardcore poetry improvisation.  Ice Cube himself even gets a lion’s share of the laughs this time as well, especially at one point when – at his absolute wit’s end – manages to take his simmering hatred of Schmidt (and one of his indiscretions that hits the Captain rather hard) out on a buffet table; Ice Cube has never been so impossibly – and drolly - coarse and bitter in a scene.  

22 JUMP STREET culminates in an action climax set against the backdrop of a massive party on a Mexican beach during Spring Break that involves foot chases, fisticuffs, gun battles, a high speed chase with Schmidt attempting to shift in and out of gear in a Lamborghini, and many double crosses and reveals.  Lord and Miller throw so much at the screen in the final act that, in a normal film, you’d write them off for being mindlessly excessive.  Yet, 22 JUMP STREET revels in self-mocking excess and emerges as a thanklessly intelligent send-up of not only the TV series, but of the riotous impulses of Hollywood to makes sequels that are bigger, but not aesthetically better.  Alas, Lord and Miller are not done when the film ends, people.  The end credit sequence itself is a masterfully side-splitting shot at mass marketing, merchandising, and how Hollywood seems to think they know exactly what people want in numerous sequels to beloved franchises.  

For the record, I’d pay to see Schmidt and Jenko undercover in culinary school.

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