22 Jump Street
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Graduated 13 June 2014
It's a rarity: 22 Jump Street is a stupid comedy with brains.
Movin' On Up
At the end of 21 Jump Street, Schmidt (Jonah Hill, This Is the End) and Jenko (Channing Tatum, Magic Mike) were heading off to college. Well, as it turns out, that should’ve been “sorta heading off to college.” They were put on an assignment involving secret messages hidden in lectures given online at the University of Internet.
One thing quickly leads to another and their flubbed mission, hilariously gone awry, includes sight gags and slapstick. That misadventure sets the tone for the rest of the movie: a no-holds-barred tour through various comedic stylings.
Nothing is safe in this sequel, which pokes fun at itself as a sequel. Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube, Friday) is frustrated by the failure of Schmidt and Jenko's latest mission. Their success the first time around led to a doubling of the Jump Street budget. With that money, operations were moved across the street — from the Korean church at 21 Jump to the Vietnamese church at 22 Jump. And, yeah, in keeping with the tried-and-true tradition of sequels, the new digs are twice as large.
But, as Dickson laments, sequels are never as good as the original, a refrain also heard earlier this year in Muppets Most Wanted. Both movies are pretty exhilarating comedic romps, but geared toward extremely different audiences. In 22 Jump Street, there's plenty of raunch to go along with the puns, spoofing, self-deprecation and satire.
Since everybody expects everything to be exactly the same as the original, Dickson puts the two on a mission just like their first one. It involves a death and drugs, but on a genuine college campus. That would be Metropolitan City State College (be on the lookout for the Benjamin Hill Center For Film Studies).
Schmidt and Jenko set out to follow the dead student's daily itinerary. Class after class proves to be a bust — not of drugs, but of leads. And they're having a heckuva hard time blending in, especially Schmidt. Jenko, though, begins to find himself (he's the first member of his family to pretend to go to college). Jenko becomes a star on the football field and can envision a whole new life for himself.
That notion is in keeping with an underlying theme: go to college to find yourself, not to simply follow others — and not to do what everybody else does. It also leads to a take on the buddy cop element that runs on the sweet side. There's no doubt Hill and Tatum have a special place in their hearts for these two goofball characters. Maybe they didn't push this particular element — the need to do your own thing — quite far enough, but what's there is mighty good. It has heart and a healthy sense of humor.
As mentioned previously, the antics are like a survey of various comedy styles. While the raunchy parts are the least effective (and primarily revolve around extended cameos by Dave Franco and Rob Riggle, reprising their roles from the first movie), there's plenty of other material to compensate.
The best elements reflect a savviness about the movie-going experience. On the obvious side are the jokes about sequels. More subtle and rich, though, are the smart gags like a tattoo that turns out to be a red herring in more ways than one.
It's a nothing-is-sacred affair that sets out to leave very few stones unturned. The possibility is there for some people to be extremely offended, but there's so much good will surrounding the lead characters, and enough self-deprecation, to get the sense being offensive purely for the sakes of being offensive isn't the modus operandi.
As the story wraps up and the end credits begin to roll, there's a flurry of sequel possibilities splashed across the screen. It's a breathless run through sight gag after sight gag and caps off nearly two hours of a comic high, a delirious rush of energy.
Naval academy, art school, dance school, a school in Russia... The possibilities are endless. And, based on the strength of this sequel, there's plenty of room to continue building on Jump Street.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.