22 Jump Street
(112 minutes, Rated R)
The highly anticipated follow-up to the biggest surprise of 2012, 22 Jump Street is the latest hit comedy from the hilarious duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller: the team behind 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie. I am happy to say that everything people loved about the original is present, but everything about 22 is bigger, bolder and perhaps funnier than its predecessor. But unlike most follow-ups that are louder for the sake of it, this flick turns the notion of a sequel on its ear; like 21 Jump Street, which was a self-referential comedy that made fun of reboots and remakes, the successor pokes fun at Hollywood’s latest moneymaking trend, sequels. Everything about its self-aware story makes fun of this concept. Even Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt’s (Jonah Hill) relationship woes reflect the common problems with follow-ups: the inability to keep it fresh.
And with this concept, the writers and directors show their true genius: 22 begins the same way as its predecessor. The guys are normal cops until they screw up an easy bust and as a result they are sent to jump street. However, right away this picture separates itself by having a comical ‘last time on’ prologue, which clearly pokes fun at the television shows that it was initially based on. This also perfectly sets up the audience for the insanity they will experience for the next 112 minutes. It is important to say that this could have easily failed; yet, the filmmakers make the audience buy into this re-trend idea with their charm and ‘wink wink’ humor.
So the first act uses the same storylines as the first movie, yet somehow because of the humor the audience is completely fine with that. And while 22 is going through the motions that feel all too familiar, I was wondering how can they sustain this self-aware style for two hours. And just like 21, I was pleasantly surprised with where the second and third act went. The flick slowly branches out into insane territory, which keeps the story fresh and offers a few twists that had the audience genuinely surprised. Again, I do not want to give anything away, but there is one surprise in the second act that is gut-wrenchingly funny and it had the audience I was with in an uproar.
As for the story, it is mostly satisfying; like 21, the movie uses comparative lifestyles for the two leads. However, this time Schmidt’s ‘loser’ status is rejected by the jocks, but embraced by the art crowd. And by having our two leads go down separate paths, the story pokes fun at the whole college process; this is not a Revenge of the Nerds or Neighbors idea, where one side of college is openly mocked. Rather both sides are openly observed through a microscope. And whether it is an ‘open mic poetry slam’ or the over-enthusiastic fans at a college football game, 22 Jump Street laughs at the entire collegiate process, which makes the seemingly over-saturated college comedy genre feel fresh again.
However, not everything about the story is perfect; while I did love Jenko and Schmidt’s arches, it felt like certain storylines were forgotten about in order to save time. For instance, once the movie decides to go to spring break, Jenko’s football career or his relationship with Zook (Wyatt Russell) seems to ‘fall by the wayside’. Even Schmidt’s love interest Maya (Amber Stevens) does not have a proper conclusion; after she gets mad at him like Brie Larson’s character in the original, Maya disappears. Yes, the audience sees her during the conclusion in Mexico, but it is not a fitting end for her character, who I happened to like throughout.
Also, it is important to note that this movie did suffer from a few lulls in the first act. And unlike the original, 22 also suffers from several jokes that just miss their mark. However, this is forgiven because when the jokes hit they were absolutely hilarious; 22 Jump Street rivals and perhaps surpasses Neighbors as the funniest film of 2014 thus far. Like Miller and Lord’s previous products, this has so many hidden jokes that it will probably take repeated viewings to unearth them all.
And all this humor leads to an action packed conclusion that is bigger, louder and better than the original’s finale. And be sure to stick around for the final credits because the hilarity continues; it simultaneously makes fun of the after-credit scenes, which has become a staple in Superhero flicks, as well as, Hollywood’s need to ‘beat a property into the ground.’ This flawlessly fits the absurd ending and truly shows how much fun they had making this.
But truly, the success of the sequel is because of the two duos: the two leads and directors. The chemistry that made the first one a success is back and better than ever in 22 Jump Street; both Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum seem like best friends and truly work off each other. While Hill, who is a two time Oscar nominated actor, is a comedy veteran at this point, Tatum stands ‘toe to toe’ and delivers some of the funniest lines.
And luckily, this follow-up also contains more fleshed out side characters to inhabit the 112 minute runtime; Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson is a more developed role and somehow his always angry gag remains funny throughout. While I always found the side characters from 21 Jump Street suitable, I found Schmidt’s love interest Maya and Jenko’s friend Zook more interesting. But do not worry, several familiar faces reappear to help remind the audience that this is still a shameless Hollywood sequel; there inclusion only furthers the absurdity, as well as, the self-referential humor.
Finally, none of this would be successful without Christopher Miller and Phil Lord; the two directors gave the buddy cop genre a shot of adrenaline in 2012, which is something that it truly needed. And they match their success with this innovative comedy that will be quoted for years. Both Lord and Miller have a style that is unmatched in Hollywood; yes, their movies always maintain a self-aware style, but style alone does not guarantee success. Their lively direction is what sets them apart from other comedy directors; their adrenaline fueled direction can be clearly seen in all of their products and the result is a frantic pace that is unrivaled. Personally, I cannot wait until their next project; I am glad that they did not do Ghostbusters 3 and hope that whatever they helm next is as original as their previous films, which is something odd to say when all of their previous work is based on properties.
Needless to say, 22 Jump Street is highly entertaining, even with my extremely high expectations. While this perfectly ended the story of Jenko and Schmidt, I hope that the duo comes back for a ‘threequel.’ I never thought I say this about a picture based on a horrible 80s television show, but as long as the quality stays this high, then they should make as many films as they want. I highly recommend this for all fans of the original; it is crazier and grander than the first, yet somehow, it maintains the distinct charm that made audiences fall in love with 21 Jump Street.