22 Jump Street

By on June 14, 2014

When the original “21 Jump Street” arrived in theaters, I wasn’t exactly pumped. I’d never seen the TV show, and the pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum didn’t exactly scream dream team. As the head critic at my job, one of the pluses is that I don’t necessarily have to see every film that rolls down the pike, so long as I review at least one film a week, so I chose to let that one go.

Then, a funny thing happened. The film was a massive hit, and mainstream critics started weighing in, saying how it unexpectedly didn’t suck, and was, in fact, shockingly not bad. I was still extremely dubious, but when certain friends of mine also signed off on the film, I finally succumbed to the hype and rented the film. Believe me, no one was more astonished than I was that “21 Jump Street” proved to be surprisingly not terrible.

One of the bigger revelations of the film was the undeniable chemistry between the two decidedly unlikely leads, which worked like gangbusters- perhaps because it was so left-of-center. Factor in a knowing script that all but winked at the audience, as if to say: “We know it’s ridiculous, too” and you had the recipe for a sleeper hit that caught most everyone off-guard, in the best of ways.

Though still a bit skeptical going in, I opted to give “22 Jump Street” the benefit of the doubt this time around, having learned my lesson not to be one of those snooty critics that think they’re better than certain material the first time around. But would lightning strike twice, or would it be more of the same, only less funny?

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum try to keep the franchise on the road in "22 Jump Street."  Courtesy of imdb.com

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum try to keep the franchise on the road in “22 Jump Street.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

Thankfully, the answer is both yes and no. Let me tell you what I mean. On the one hand, yes, “22 Jump Street” is absolutely more of the same. I’m not going to deny that or claim otherwise. On the other hand, like the “Scream” films before it, the movie knows exactly what it is, and it isn’t afraid to poke fun at the very notion of a sequel as a full-on cash-in on the success of the film before it.

Indeed, wait until you see the near-worth-the-price-of-admission-alone end credit sequence, which foreshadows potential sequels on down the line in hilarious fashion, down to the addition of sidekicks- in this case, a hot chick, played by Anna Faris- and the “contract dispute” entry, in which Hill is “replaced” by someone else similar, whose identity I won’t spoil here.

As with the first film, “22 Jump Street” garners its fair share of laughs from this gambit of making fun of the fact that the very idea of a “21 Jump Street” movie is ridiculous, much less a sequel to one. As Nick Offerman, as Deputy Chief Hardy, puts it: “Do the same thing.” Only, this being a sequel, everything has to be bigger, more over the top. Therefore, the gang moves across the street, literally, to a church on “22 Jump Street”- hence the title- which is itself hilariously next door to an empty lot with a construction sign that reads: “23 Jump Street condominiums coming soon!”

The film goes from there, taking the boys out of high school and into college, where this time, the shoe is on the other foot. Whereas in the first film Tatum’s character was a bit of a loser and Hill the amusingly popular one, this time, it’s the other way around. Tatum fits in like nobody’s business and Hill is forced to bond with the lowly art student crowd, reciting slam poetry at a local coffeehouse and the like. (Hill’s decidedly Meta attempt at doing said poetry is one of the film’s funniest bits.)

Meanwhile, the two set about investigating the crime at hand, which involves a confusingly-titled drug known as “Why-Phy,” starting out as dubious “brothers” before eventually growing apart as a direct result of their conflicting personas and hanging with different crowds. As you might imagine, this leads to some funny “bromance” moments, such as the scene in which the two inadvertently stumble into a therapy session with the college counselor, expressing their feelings about the situation in knowingly wry terms, a la a gay couple.

Is Ice Cube gonna have to put a cap in someone's ass in "22 Jump Street"?  Courtesy of imdb.com

Is Ice Cube gonna have to put a cap in someone’s ass in “22 Jump Street”?
Courtesy of imdb.com

Throw in a great twist involving Hill’s love interest, well-cast and winningly played by former “Greek” star Amber Stevens; plus fun characters like the twosome’s next-door dorm neighbors, who are identical twins (The Lucas Brothers) and Stevens’ character’s snarky roommate (Jillian Bell, stealing almost every scene she’s in) and you’ve got a recipe for a fun time at the movies, if this sort of thing even remotely appeals to you.

So, I won’t make the same mistake the first time around, and be dismissive of “22 Jump Street.” It may not exactly reinvent the wheel, but it gets the job done just fine, and actually better-than-expected. If you like the first one, you’ll definitely like this one, and if anything, I’d have to say this one is even better in its own way.

With the characters firmly established, we don’t waste time getting into things, and the film doesn’t even try to pretend to be anything other than what it is: the same thing it was the first time around, only even more calculatingly so, which is admittedly satisfying, all things considered. I laughed a lot, and consistently, and that is really all you can hope for in a sequel. Yes, the film falls prey to the inexplicable trend of overlong comedies, but at least it delivers the comedic goods, so I don’t mind letting it slide on that count.

I’m going to give it a B+ and say that, next time around, assuming there is one- and that’s a safe assumption- I won’t be so hasty to be dismissive. Sometimes funny things come in unexpected packages, you know? Go figure.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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