When the 21 Jump Street movie came out in 2012, I was pretty on the fence about even bothering to see it, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit despite it not having much ambitions other than being a funny, self-aware riff on “recycling shit from the past and expecting us not to notice”. I can’t say I was chomping at the bit to see another Jump Street movie (which explains why I’m reviewing it nearly three weeks after it came out), since the first one seemed like such a fluke that it was as good as it was. Luckily, 22 Jump Street is similarly aware that it’s a rehash of the same old shit that’s been done before, but since it more than delivers a healthy dose of laughs and gratuitous bromanship, I’m pretty alright with that.
Since the first movie centered on officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) going back to high school as undercover cops to infiltrate a new drug that’s being passed around, you could probably guess what they end up doing in 22 Jump Street. Yup, that’s right. The guys end up going to college to try and get to the bottom of who’s been selling a new drug called Whyphy on campus. Throughout the movie, we’ve got Ice Cube and Nick Offerman repeatedly stating how everything that’s happening in the story is exactly like it happened the first time — although that’s not entirely how things unfold this time around. And I think it’s this commentary on the film’s own laziness combined with it’s slight reversals on its pre-established formula that makes the movie work.
But most of all, it succeeds by basically delivering just as many laughs as the first movie, even if it might not contain quite as many memorable comedic set pieces. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are still a surprisingly adept comedic duo, with Tatum in particular continuing to be great at playing such a complete idiot, which makes it all the more easy to accept him as a funny dude despite his innate handsomeness. Also, I liked the way they were able to give Ice Cube a more prominent role than in the first movie, since I imagine he relishes any chance to yell at someone other than Kevin Hart or that Coors Light can.
You could probably make the case that 22 Jump Street‘s more meta story elements are both its blessing and its curse. There’s a moment early on when someone predicts that Schmidt and Jenko’s friendship will probably be tested in predictable ways before they make up and become better friends than ever, which of course happens. However, this doesn’t really make the scenes of Schmidt and Jenko talking about how hard it is for them to remain friends any more fun to watch. Also, much like in the first movie, I was never really sure how much to invest in the romance between Jonah Hill and a younger co-ed, since she is in the end just a plot device. But even when the movie hits some rough spots, directors Phil Lord and Chistopher Miller provide a visual panache that sees them continuing to establish themselves as two of the more dynamic comedy directors around. Also, with these Jump Street movies and The Lego Movie from earlier this year, they’ve pretty much made it their M.O. to take properties that seem like they’d make terrible movies, and make them surprisingly entertaining. So I can only imagine what these guys could do with a story that actually demands to be brought to the big screen.