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22 Jump Street (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 13, 2020

22 Jump Street

22 JUMP STREET (2014)

Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell, Ice Cube, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas, Nick Offerman, Jimmy Tatro, Caroline Aaron, Craig Roberts, Marc Evan Jackson, John Chrest, Eddie J. Fernandez, Rye Rye, Johnny Pemberton, Stanley Wong, Dax Flame, Rob Riggle, Dave Franco, Queen Latifah, Richard Grieco, Dustin Nguyen, Bill Heder, Patton Oswalt and Seth Rogen.

Screenplay by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman.

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures.  112 minutes.  Rated R.

22 Jump Street offers an interesting conundrum for the viewer.  Is it okay for a sequel to slavishly stick with the formula and storyline of the first film if the film is self-aware and post-modern enough to repeatedly mock itself for doing so?

Normally I’d say no.  In fact, to a certain extent I’d even say no in this specific example.  However, it appears there was enough juice in this premise, and stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have enough charisma and connection that 22 Jump Street is nearly as entertaining as the first one.  Even when it blatantly reheats the old plot.

Which is interesting, because of the old TV reboots of recent years, the 21 Jump Street series seemed to be low on the list of franchises that the world needed to revisit.  (Of course, perhaps the fact that I never watched the original series has something to do with my ambivalence.)  So good for them for revamping the series in a way to make not one, but two quite entertaining movies out of it.  Granted, the second one loses the fizzy originality of the first film, but it still has a certain je ne sais quoi to it that will make you laugh more a hell of a lot more than you might expect.

There are only cosmetic changes to the basic storyline.  Instead of two doofus cops going undercover in a high school to find a drug dealer, this time they are enrolled in college to find a drug dealer.  (In fact, during the closing credits there is a hysterical montage of future school undercover assignments which they might receive in later films in the series, including driving school and beauty school.)  The fictional designer drug they are looking into has gone from HFS to WHY-PHY.  The undercover police station has moved across the street from an abandoned Korean Church to an abandoned Vietnamese Church.

The biggest change is that their roles have reversed back.  Part of the kicky fun of 21 was that Hill’s loser Schmidt became popular at the school while former Tatum’s BMOC Jenko ended up hanging with the science club.  This time around, natural selection has been restored and Jenko becomes a football hero, fitting in with the jocks, including a new bestie, the quarterback Zook (well played by Wyatt Russell, son of movie star Kurt Russell.)  In the meantime Schmidt is hanging out in poetry slams and getting ignored at parties.

One person who does not ignore him is Maya (Amber Stevens), a pretty arty girl who had befriended the murdered student that caused the investigation.  She meets him at a poetry slam and has a drunken hook up and eventually befriends him.

Her roommate Mercedes (Jillian Bell) also notices Schmidt, and spends the entire film mocking him for obviously being way older than any of the other students.  In fact, Bell’s scenes with Hill make for some of the funniest exchanges in the movie.

As with the first film, the crime story is the least interesting part of the film, though with a bigger budget the new movie feels the need to make the action sequences bigger and more spectacular, all the while mocking itself for doing the typical sequel overkill.  By the time the team makes it down to Mexico for Spring Break and the big break in the case, the audience is going “enough already.”

The film often forgets that the real secret weapon in the Jump Street series is the oddball chemistry between overweight loser Schmidt and jock lunkhead Jenko.  22 Jump Street tries to overdo the whole “bromance” thing… particularly in a breakup montage to John Waite’s song “Missing You.”  The idea of a bromance is a little overdone and trite by now, and honestly the original film and I Love You, Man did it much better.

There is also a slight problem with bad timing.  It’s not the movie’s fault that their jokes about writer Maya Angelou and comic Tracy Morgan suddenly feel rather inappropriate as the poet died two weeks before the film’s release and Morgan was seriously injured in an automobile accident a week before opening night.  There was no way they could have foretold those things happening, but it casts an odd pall on the proceedings nonetheless.

However, even if 22 Jump Street has a lot more potholes than its predecessor, it’s still lots of good, dumb fun.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2014 All rights reserved. Posted: June 15, 2014.

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