22 Jump Street Review


22 Jump Street—the sequel to the hilarious film adaptation of the popular 1980s TV show 21 Jump Street—spits in the face of its very existence. Not unlike The LEGO Movie—which also came from the brains of this film’s directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller—it comes from greedy, vain, and uninspired origins, but it doesn’t ask its audience to take it remotely seriously. The result? A film full of gut-busting laughs that succeeds in spite of the fact that it goes back to the well a few too many times.

We rejoin Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) in the middle of an attempted sting operation. While trying to take down illegal animal dealer Ghost (Peter Stormare), Jenko bungles the brainy side of the job while Schmidt trips the duo up physically, which is to say very little has changed since the events of 21 Jump Street. But it’s no matter. Their last undercover job was wildly successful, so they’re informed that the budget for the Jump Street program has grown exponentially, and Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) sends them off to college to bust another deadly synthetic drug ring. “Infiltrate the dealers, find the supplier,” he tells them…again.

At Metro City State University, the two oldest-looking freshmen ever have no trouble fitting in, but both Jenko and Schmidt—a.k.a. Brad and Doug McQuade—find their respective places in different social circles. Jenko meets a soulmate of sorts in the form of Zook (Wyatt Russell), the quarterback of the football team and a brother in the Zeta fraternity. Schmidt, meanwhile, connects with Maya (Amber Stevens), a sweet art student with an annoying roommate, Mercedes (Jillian Bell). Both men are relatively happy, but they’re starting to grow apart, which threatens the investigation—and worse, they’re ignoring evidence right in front of their faces because of their newfound friendships.

The film begins poking fun at itself straight away with a hilarious sequence in Deputy Chief Hardy’s (Nick Offerman) office in which he gives Schmidt and Jenko their assignments and discusses the inanity in throwing more money at something, hoping to replicate the same results simply because it worked one time. We then jump to the film’s titular abandoned Vietnamese (not Korean) church where Captain Dickson reiterates the same points. He has more money, which means a CTU-style office, expensive shoes, cool new weapons, a smoothie bar, and possibly a shark tank in his work space.

The meta gags and one-liners don’t end there, but they aren’t as consistently funny as the film goes on. One of the great things about the first film was the shift in dynamic between Schmidt and Jenko when they went back to high school. The once bullied became a stud, while the former popular jock had a hard time fitting in. 22 Jump Street‘s thing is to flip this on its head—clever in theory, but weird in practice because it’s awfully conventional and a little mean-spirited. A former dweeb finally finds a true friend and his comfort zone but it gets ripped from him at college. It’s not especially funny and not at all surprising.

The one story beat that truly feels regurgitated from 21 Jump Street is the Schmidt romance, but oddly enough, it’s better fleshed-out here than it was in the first film. Brie Larson is a great actress, but she didn’t have the same chemistry and comedic timing Amber Stevens has with Jonah Hill here, which isn’t even mentioning the wild twist that pops up midway through the film that relates to hers and Schmidt’s parents weekend together.

But as nice as that is, the MVP of the picture is Channing Tatum, who plays Jenko with such gleeful dickishness. It’s still nothing short of astonishing the career 180 he’s experienced over the last couple years. 21 Jump Street was arguably the beginning of that great run, and today, he’s a straight up comedic all-star. There’s a fine line between dim-witted and mean-spirited he walks with his character in this film, but even on the few occasions when Jenko falls out of out of favor with the audience, Tatum is nothing short of electric.

The film’s action is delightfully over-the-top, and its end credits might contain its best jokes. While it’s not quite on par with its predecessor, it’s a very worthwhile comedy. It’s not particularly ambitious, but it knows its audience and plays to its strengths better than most summer studio films.

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