22 Jump Street is the perfect example of beating a dead horse
In 2012, I attended a premiere screening of 21 Jump Street at SXSW with fellow We Live Film critic, Matt McKeague. I remember that our opinions were very different on the film and even though I hated the marketing campaign, I had a lot of fun with the film itself. Two years later, 22 Jump Street is hitting theaters and I went into the sequel hoping to have the same fun that I had with the first film.
22 Jump Street picks up essentially where 21 Jump Street left off. Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are two undercover cops trying to work their way up to the big leagues. However, after an undercover drug bust goes horribly wrong, Jenko and Schmidt are sent to 22 Jump Street where Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) reassigns the duo to a very similar case to their first outing. This time around, the boys must infiltrate a local college in order to track down the dealer of a new synthetic drug that has just hit and recently killed a student on campus.
There is no denying that when you watch 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street that everyone involved is having an absolute blast being a part of the film. Those involved are not only doing this for the paycheck, but because they clearly love working with each another. 22 Jump Street features a lot of the same scenes as the original as well as a similar story-line and tone. It feels like Déjà vu when comparing the two films.
Tatum’s Jenko and Hill’s Schmidt are both very likable characters and there is no denying that these two actors have terrific on-screen chemistry. Their relationship is what carried the first film and that is exactly the same in the sequel. The main difference is that this time around, Hill is a bit more toned down allowing him to embrace the character. Tatum, on the other hand, really brought the character up a notch from the last time on-screen outing two years ago. I honestly have nothing negative to say about either actor in this film and feel like both were simply having a blast while making this film.
I will say that Ice Cube as Captain Dickson was hands down the best thing about the film. Even though, the script and character just played off the same “angry black man” persona from the first film; it is what occurs with his character that ultimately makes it worth-while. I feel that while Cube was only on-screen for a total of 20-25 minutes of the 112 minute run-time that he was really the funniest aspect of the film. There are two scenes in particular that had my audience in hysterics from laughing so hard.
This brings me the bad news about 22 Jump Street and that was that the film felt like a one trick pony. One of the things that I enjoyed immensely about the first film is how self-aware the plot was. It was a parody of buddy cop films from the 80s and had a nice mix of action and comedy while adding in some cheesiness to it. The sequel, however, acknowledges the fact that it is self-aware almost instantly, however, it never stops hitting the audience over the head with it.
I was amused during the introduction when Nick Offerman’s Deputy Chief Hardy was talking about how Jenko and Schmidt’s first outing was a surprise hit and how they were given a bigger budget. I thought that was really funny, but after the midway point where they start doing similar things like tripping on the drug or commenting on the fact that there is no more money in the budget, I found myself bored with the film. I realize that I might be alone on this, but I really don’t think being constantly self aware is all that entertaining nor funny.
There are so many moments just like the “we’re in a sequel” gag throughout 22 Jump Street that it felt like the entire story was built on repetition. The jokes range from scenes mocking the notorious college “walk of shame” to various scenes where Schmidt has to take the stairs while Jenko jumps up or down off of a building. There are so many run-on gags that I found it too hard to find any of them remotely clever. There is even a scene where Mercedes (Jillian Bell) and Schmidt are fighting and in the middle of the fight they randomly start doing improv about wanting to kiss one another. The joke only begins again moments later where they begin talking about wanting to fuck each another. I normally enjoy run-on gags in my comedies, however, this film went way too overboard with them and in return they took away from the actual laughs.
I also need to point out while this is a bromance and a parody of those types of films, the overbearing amount of gay subtext throughout the film was a bit overwhelming. The story didn’t just have this with the Jenko and Schmidt relationship, but rather with Jenko and Zook (Wyatt Russell) relationship, as well. I think the film was hinting on the idea that some jocks are closeted homosexuals while making fun of dumb jocks. I just didn’t think it was all that funny simply because there were far too many scenes and jokes that relied on the idea “its like a relationship” to sell the humor to the audience.
My overall problem with the film is that the script wasn’t nearly as smart or clever as it wanted to be. 22 Jump Street relied far too much on repetition in order to make the sequel stand out. I understand that being self aware usually makes for a fun time especially since the first film did it and worked it to its advantage. This film feels a lot like The Hangover 2 where it takes the same story and mixes in similar jokes just in a different environment. I think that Schmidt and Jenko are much more likable and engrossing than the Hangover guys but that still doesn’t make this film all that great.
Earlier this year, Muppets Most Wanted mocked the fact that they were doing a sequel in it’s opening scene. After a three minute song and dance, the film told its own story even if many argue that it wasn’t as a good as The Muppets reboot from 2011. Ultimately, what I am saying is that 22 Jump Street relies way too much on reusing the same gags and mocking the first film and genre than actually doing anything fresh. I like Jenko and Schmidt as characters and their chemistry when they are together, but the overuse of self-awareness and run-on gags was the film’s biggest downfall. I am not saying that I disliked 22 Jump Street but wanted a lot more from it than what I got. It was a disappointment for me, a huge disappointment.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for 22 Jump Street is a 4 out of 10.