Summary: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return as Schmidt and Jenko, best buddies and undercover cops who are sent to college this time around with the exact same assignment they had in 21 Jump Street: infiltrate the cool kids and identify the drug dealers. Jenko finds a soulmate in the campus quarterback who convinces him to join the football team. Schmidt is threatened by the new friend, but manages to get close to a beautiful coed. Inbetween, the guys hunt for a dealer with a specific tattoo and report back to Jump St. and Captain Dickson (Ice Cube).
Hill and Tatum as BFFs
22 Jump Street is better than the original from 2012 and the chemistry between Hill and Tatum is the biggest reason why. The two actors were great together in the first film and they obviously formed a close friendship while making it that shows up in the sequel. Also, the heart of Schmidt and Jenko's friendship is a not-too-subtle gay undertone that the two utilize to maximum comedic effect. I don't know why two straight guys pretending to be in love is so funny, but it is. Jenko becomes friends with Zook (Wyatt Russell) the aforementioned MC State QB, and Schmidt hates it. Hill is hilarious playing the rejected boyfriend, staring wide-eyed into the distance and trailing off his lines when he's "upset." Hill and Tatum seem like the best buddies they're playing and it enhances all the humor.
Tatum and Wyatt Russell as BBFs (Best Bros Forever)
The biggest surprise in 22 Jump Street is the friendship between Jenko and Zook. They meet during football tryouts and immediately hit it off, finishing each other's sentences and dying laughing at stupid jokes. Jenko finds his twin (a theme of the movie best represented by The Lucas Brothers, who live across the hall), which makes Schmidt expendable and creates great comedic tension. Sure, it's a predictable flip flop from the first film when Hill was the cool kid, but it works so well it's hard to deny the decision. Plus it's just fun watching Tatum and Russell together. They call each other "bro" constantly and never stop complimenting and high fiving. They're so stupid and goofy it's a blast to watch.
The Movie Beats You to the Punch Line
All the great comedies of the past decade or so (Zoolander, Wedding Crashers, Bridesmaids) have something in common. They're completely self-aware and they don't take themselves seriously. That means no ridiculous melodrama (the kind that plagues Adam Sandler) and a fearlessness that's essential in R-rated comedy. 21 Jump Street set the bar high in this category. Nick Offerman's police sergeant character embodies the idea as all his lines are meant to poke fun at the silliness of a 21 Jump Street movie adaptation. He does the same thing again, but the entire film is meta commentary on reboots and sequels in general. Captain Dickson reveals he was handed a much bigger budget for the new assignment and the old rundown headquarters have received a shiny new makeover. One character sports a tattoo of a red herring. And Jenko and Schmidt's ages are a running gag as both cops look elderly compared to some of the students. The term "liver spots" is summoned.
Jonah Hill: The Best
After his gangbusters, Oscar-nominated turn in The Wolf of Wall Street last year, Hill easily could have taken some time off to enjoy his success and relax, but instead he jumped right back into straight comedy work. He's one of the industry's most versatile actors, but people shouldn't forget where he comes from (Superbad). Hill is a natural comedian and we're treated to more of his fantastic sarcasm in 22 Jump. The worst part about the first movie was watching him fumble his way through that awkward Brie Larson relationship. That's been corrected here as he snags another girlfriend, Maya (Amber Stevens), but doesn't fall in love with her. Instead, he plays up the one night stand awkwardness and sighs deeply during his barefoot walk of shame ("I just want to curl up in bed and watch Friends all day."). But overall, Hill sets the tone for the entire movie. He's wonderfully sarcastic and quick-witted (he has a writing credit), and he's surprisingly adept falling off of trucks and smashing his face into large objects. His slam poetry scene is hilarious and he does a spot on cholo impression that leads into a ridiculous battle with an octopus.
The End Credits
22 Jump Street joins the ranks of Slumdog Millionaire, The Hangover, and WALL-E, boasting one of the best end credits sequences in recent movie history. I won't spoil it here, but let's just say there're no shortage of ideas for 23 Jump Street, 24 Jump Street and beyond.
What Doesn't Work?
Not Much, but a Case Could be Made for Bad Taste
I'm not gay, I was never offended, but I suppose an argument could be made against 22 Jump Street's constant man love jokes. The fact of the matter is the film thinks it's hugely funny that Schmidt and Jenko act like a couple and that could easily be offensive to some. It's inherently offensive to "act gay" or "act" any way that blanket stereotypes entire groups of people, but this is a goofball comedy no one in their right mind should take seriously. Plus, the actual root of the humor is love in general. It's funny when couples of any gender argue about petty stuff, Schmidt and Jenko just happen to be dudes.
The Lack of a Real Narrative
22 Jump Street is essentially a medley of Saturday Night Live skits. It should be noted this is a deliberate decision. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller don't care about storytelling, they care about making us laugh. But real movies have real stories and goofball comedies with random senses of humor will never be considered "great" unless they merge the worlds of story and random comedy flawlessly. Consider a film like Raising Arizona. It's a comedy with all types of insane hilarious bits that show off the Coen brothers' senses of humor, but it has a definite forward narrative that drives the humor and resolves itself in a natural way. 22 Jump Street simply ends because the two hours is up. It magically places all the key players together in one place and sloppily calls it a day. It's funny, but is it top notch storytelling? No.
Final grade: B+
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