Given how low hopes were for 21 Jump Street and how successful it eventually became, you’d think a sequel would be a given. But knowing how many sequels are soulless cash grabs or just redoing what they did before, you have to wonder how they would make it worthwhile. I still had my reservations about it, not knowing how far they would go. Not only did they make it even better the second time around but they also ridiculed the very business that makes these sequels while deconstructing the tired and true model that most sequels employ. In a summer jam packed with sequels, reboots, prequels and remakes, 22 Jump Street goes in an entirely different direction showing you the same stuff as before while relishing in the inane banalities that permeates through countless films.
It is simply too easy to review this movie simply cause it is the same exact movie as before. Sequences, characters, and plot are copy/pasted here but that should not mean that it isn’t worth seeing. Not by any means but people should go in expecting an R rated vulgar comedy that is meant to copy all sequels, especially cop films. But it’s the meta qualities that make it that much more endearing as a whole. By not treating the audience like an idiot, it feels fresh having them in on the joke. It had to be one of the most meta movies ever made and even more subversive than the first, which seemed like a tall order given how absurd the first one was. not only that but it was sweeter, funnier and more poignant that most movies and sequels in general aren’t. Despite rehashing the same formula, it still had the ability to pull off some great surprises.
The major selling point is the brilliant chemistry between Jonah Hill as Morton Schmidt and Channing Tatum as Greg Jenko. They go off too well off of each other, like they’ve been real life friends their whole lives. Like any good pairing, it’s the differences that make them better overall. Its been forever since a cinematic paring was this endearing on so many levels while making you care for both characters. They both were given ample time to deliver and adequately fresh out the story. While Hill has the standard love interest, it was never really about Schmidt finding love but reaffirming his love for his friend and partner. it was a rather effective love story between them, better than most rom-coms. Loved how they correlated it to an actual sexual relationship with couples therapy, spurned lover and a new potential partner. That makes it stand apart from past great cop duos and other film series that spawned a sequel like Riggs/Murtaugh, Cates/Hammond, Agents J & K, Foley/Taggert/Rosewood and Lee/Carter. Ice Cube as the pissed off black Captain Dickson was hilarious, using his enraged demeanor perfectly against Tatum’s goofiness and Hills fast quips. It’s a perfect mixture of differing comedic styles where not one person is the standout. The supporting cast was also exceptional.
Jillian Bell as Mercedes a student and roommate to Maya, was incredible with her put downs and dry delivery. She has always been great if anyone has seen Workaholics where she plays a secretary Jillian. Amber Stevens as Maya played a good love interest to Schmidt and was really sweet. Wyatt Russell as Zook, a potentially new best friend to Jenko portrayed a composite frat boy football star jock but was told in a way that was particularly revealing. Seeing Jenko bond with a fellow lunkhead like Zook was charming while showing a rift between Jenko and Schmidt. Dave Franco as Eric Molson and Rob Riggle as Mr. Walters have a great scene where they’re imprisoned and questioned for help by the collegiate undercover cops. Nick Offerman as Deputy Chief Hardy utilizes the least amount of screen time for maximum effect as he says what we are all thinking to Jenko and Schmidt about the first film and why there is a sequel in the first place.
The plot and story are the same, instead of using undercover cops investigating a drug ring in a high school as a backdrop they are using undercover cops investigating a drug ring in a college. But it differs because college is just so much riper for satire. There is simply more to go off from. And everything gets grilled here from frats, jocks, intellectuals, art majors, teachers and the many clichés of college life. While it isn’t hard to subvert college life, the way it shows how banal it is by throwing everything but the kitchen sink is original. The inventory of standard college supplies like bean bag chairs, shower poofs and funny shirts that acknowledge that they drink beer is hilarious in its truthfulness. Much like Neighbors did earlier this year, it also reveals how empty partying like a college kid really is and that sometimes one has to grow up. Taking this route, it matures in a way that other sequels don’t.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have really surprised with their willingness to go all out and break cinematic conventions. It really is something to see as it’s hardly ever used for a comedy summer blockbuster. You’d expect to see something like this in a more cerebral dark dramedy. They have a crisp pace allowing for everything to take shape and let everything breathe. Unknowingly I have been a fan of both of them for years when they created their now animated cult classic TV show Clone High for MTV. Much of the comedy, satire, tone, and absurdity that was prevalent there is drenched all over 22 Jump Street. They have a great knack for combining two things alone that seem out of place but together goes together like peanut butter and jelly. They take easy targets that many may know the jokes too and makes an entirely different joke that we’ve never heard before.
Being an avid cinephile like myself, I never had so much fun laughing at the preposterous elements of action movies. I’ve seen nearly all of the great ones so picking apart and relating certain sequences to specific scenes in other movies was a treat in itself. Hot Fuzz broke down action and cop movies years before 21 Jump Street, but the freshness that 22 Jump Street inhabits and willingness to accept the absurdity makes it come from an entirely different point of view. Car chases, fist fights, shootouts, last dash attempt to catch the bad guy and saying a classic one liner before you put away the villain are all cross examined to the point of near exhaustion. Not since Scream challenged an entire genre has there been a more successfully subversive series and I’m surprised there aren’t more films of this ilk. Or more films that get mainstream attention. It’s reaching a point where more films have to stretch their creative abilities and not rely on the same old stuff. Especially when it comes to sequels as they get the ridicule they deserve. The audiences are aware of the strings being pulled and the old parlor tricks used, if they aren’t they should be. I’d be dumbfounded if audiences don’t see the many sequels, reboots, prequels and remakes for what they are and how easy we all fall for them.
It’s incredibly rare for any movie to get me laughing from the very first frame all the way to the butter end, but this did. It immediately jumps into the pool of unbelievably goofy, never letting go for a brief moment. It was hands down one of the best comedies in years and one of the best of the year. I didn’t feel bored during the whole movie and hated it when it ended. But I am glad it did end since The ending may be the most hilarious sequence I have ever seen. Crossing into now unseen territories of meta-ness, it drives a final stake into sequels running them into a never-ending gauntlet of stupidity. The cameos were great and possibly the funniest, most bizarre and horrifying moment has to be the after credits. It caught me completely off guard and a great way to end the movie. There was simply too much to laugh from and the many sight gags are proof of that. Which I feel is a dying art in comedies. They don’t do the sight gag like they did in the past like The Naked Gun Series, Airplane or Top Secret! I don’t think filmmakers have the intelligence to pull them off or are simply too lazy. Sometimes it’s easier to include a cheap pop culture gag that has nothing to do with the movie like cinematic poison merchants Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer who directed such classics as Date, Epic and Disaster Movie. People will not like this movie for whatever reason but they must respect how it actually tries to do something different rather than churn out a lazy, brainless effort like those two morons.
The potential success of a meta comedy to a rebooted 80s TV show doesn’t really sound like it would be a huge hit. A sequel seemed even unlikelier since many comedies tend to fail as they hit a sequel. But that didn’t stop Wayne’s World and its sequel from becoming a hit, while crossing the line into meta territory countless times. The appreciation for 22 Jump Street and movies like this comes with loving the source material it takes from. And that’s something that I hope doesn’t get lost on viewers who don’t get it, are too young to know of the references or plain don’t like it. I’m not saying that one has to love action movies and vulgar humor to like it, but it certainly helps if one does. With so many movies spoon feeding audiences like babies, it’s comforting that we get to feed ourselves and see how trivial most movies are today. To take down mindless summer blockbuster sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes, it needs a smart, cognizant summer blockbuster sequel. Four and a half cliché action tropes out of five.