22 Jump Street
Review by Daniel Rester
How far does being meta get you if you are a film? Pretty far, I guess. At least that is what 22 Jump Street hopes for. It’s a sequel that (very very very) heavily relies on self-referential humor and making fun of genre conventions. That’s all fine and dandy for comedy for most people, but to me that sort of thing can wear thin pretty fast if there is nothing else to back it up. Luckily for 22 Jump Street, though, it has the chemistry of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum to save the day.
22 Jump Street gives us the return of mismatched buddy cops Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum), who we first saw in 21 Jump Street in 2012. This time they are moved to 22 Jump Street for an assignment and are again put under the orders of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). Dickson assigns them to “do the same thing,” only this time at a college instead of a high school.
This repetition of assignment means that Schmidt and Jenko must once again go under cover and pretend to be students. This time around, though, Schmidt ends up in the art and poetry crowd while Jenko fits in with the football and frat group. Their mission has them searching for the supplier of a new drug called “WHYPHY.”
This new film, again directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, is self-aware every step of the way with its humor. Seriously, I was waiting for one of the actors to actually break the fourth wall and wink at the audience because of this attitude. Such a thing never occurred, but it might as well have. Mixed in with the self-referential material are a lot of dirty jokes, to no surprise.
I’m not really nagging about all of this, though. The film works, mostly, because it hits with its humor. And it hits with its humor because of the likability of the cast and enough fresh and clever changes in the writing. This movie knows it’s a film sequel and is copying off of the first movie, and it has fun with that idea; it doesn’t really have anything to do with the original TV series. A mostly-failed attempt at something like this would be The Hangover Part II (2011), which was just a carbon copy and didn’t add a dose of wink-wink comedy. These big in-joke movies can go either way, but this one works pretty well.
Hill and Tatum are both hilarious in the leads, though the sparks are only really there when they are on-screen together; it’s the odd couple chemistry between them that is so enjoyable. Hill still knows how to do foul-mouthed nerdy guy well, while Tatum plays dumb and deadpans terrifically. The interplay and heart between their characters is what is mostly attractive about this sequel.
The supporting cast is pretty fun as well. Ice Cube easily steals a couple of scenes as the rude police captain; one scene involving him eating dinner is absolutely hilarious. We also get newcomers Amber Stevens as a new love interest for Schmidt, Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell) as a football star, and Jillian Bell as a strange girl in the dorms; Peter Stormare also shows up in a thankless role as one of the antagonists. All of these actors add a bit of charm here and there.
Lord and Miller do a fine job at directing the picture, though there isn’t much that is new in their touch. They have gotten better at staging action scenes, though, including one funny bit involving a semi-truck. They also know how to capture the variety of personalities at college pretty well without resorting to full-blown stereotyping with the characters; an exception to this is Russell, who is hilariously depicted as a jock who just wants to work out all the time.
22 Jump Street is smart and knows what it is, but it also comes across as smug, lazy, and annoying at times. I would love to see Hill and Tatum do something else together, but the material here suggests that there isn’t much left to get out of these characters. However, a certain sequence (which is great) suggests that we thankfully might not get another sequel. This one is already needless and isn’t as good as the original, though it is still passable and very entertaining at times. Hopefully it can just end here before they ruin a good thing.
Score: 3 out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B).
MPAA Rating: R (for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity, and some violence).
Runtime: 1 hour and 52 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: June 13th, 2014.