Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stomare, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens, Wyatt Russell, Jillian Bell
I saw the cinematic reboot of 21 Jump Street on a plane not too long ago. I had heard good things but was never intrigued enough to check it out at home myself. What I found was a great comedy with a nice balance of wit, zany/crass humor, heart and even a throwback to the old show via some surprising (to me, at least) cameos. A solid flick that, like all good buddy cop movies, was ripe for a sequel — one that was heavily hinted at.
Enter 22 Jump Street. Let’s get things out of the way up front: if you didn’t really care for the first one, there’s nothing here that’s going to sway your opinion on the partnering of officers Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) as they move on from going deep undercover in high school to deeper undercover in college at the local metro college. Even more, if you’re not a fan of meta type humor, 22 Jump Street may not be your bag of tea. The film makes an enormous number of comedic references to how old the duo look, in addition to commenting on the state of the Hollywood sequel, with any number of points made about doubling budgets to double profits, following the same plot lines to appease the built-in fan base, and more.
The good news is that 22 Jump Street makes all of these points fairly well, even while staying within the same basic confines of the first film. There’s another popular drug making it’s way onto the scene, this time around called WHYPHY, which makes you experience laser-like focus for the first four hours of the high and then makes you “trip balls” for the next four. A perfect college drug that allows you to take care of your studies before going out to party. Of course there are scenes where Schmidt and Jenko unknowingly ingest said pharmaceuticals with onscreen tripping effects included, but in the spirit of full disclosure these scenes are not as funny or inspired as the first movie’s H.F.S. (Holy Fucking Shit) scenes.
But that’s okay, because as much as this is a comedic police procedural affair, it’s also about the further exploration of the dynamic of Schmidt and Jenko’s professional and personal partnership. Yes, they do the whole split apart and come back together thing, but in college it isn’t necessarily a question of cool crowd versus uncool crowd division. Jenko gets to be a jock again and finds inspiration in that and his new quarterback pal Zook (Wyatt Russel), while Schmidt falls in with the art crowd and beds a beautiful girl named Maya (Amber Stevens) — with hilarious results that I will not spoil here. These two make about as unlikely pair as one can think of, and that’s the point. Life happens like that as much as it does not when people of the same and different backgrounds/talents/inclinations come together, often making a stronger effort when moderately codependent rather than fully independent. It’s a good character study, and is rendered with enough zest to make it effective enough to overcome trope due to the performances and commitment of the leads.
Supporting actors here are also a hoot. Ice Cube is given more to do, and this is a good thing. Maya’s roommate Mercedes (Jillian Bell) is a kooky and physical character. Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) gets the best of the sequelitis meta references. Pete Stomare makes a good villain as The Ghost. Rob Riggle (as Mr. Walters) and Dave Franco (as Eric) from the first film get some time as imprisoned consultants with hilarious results. In addition to the acting, action scenes are handled quite adeptly with plenty of car chases, fisticuffs, explosions and shootouts. It’s clear that more dollars have been pumped into this sequel, as predicted/discussed by the films characters, and it all works.
So, if you liked the first installment, 22 Jump Street is just as strong. There are rarely any missteps, and this review only touches the surface of the witty references that abound. There are plenty of humorous moments, and given some of the more rapid fire scenes in the film, I likely missed some of them. I sat throughout the entire run time with at least a smile on my face, laughing and guffawing more often than not. The human side is there too via the relationship built by Hill and Tatum, making 22 Jump Street a very well crafted buddy cop film package. And be sure to stay through most of the end credits, as possibilities for future film ideas are explored in only a semi-laughingly fashion.