If ever there was a film that was destined for failure, it was a 21st century reboot of 21 Jump Street. An idea that scrapes the bottom of the barrel so hard that It might as well get splinters in your eyes. However, due to the deft direction of comedic miracle workers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and the unexpectedly winning chemistry between Jonah Hill, and meathead turned master comedian Channing Tatum, the movie turned out to be a wildly funny satire of modern high school stereotypes, bromantic relationships, and buddy cop films.
As such, 22 Jump Street does not have the luxury of low expectations, especially after Lord/Miller somehow managed to turn a movie about Legos into one of the most masterful pieces of satiric animation ever constructed (eat your heart out Macfarlane). Fortunately, the film is all too aware of this.
We pick up with Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) back on the regular police force hot off of their success in the first film. Unfortunately, they fail in spectacular fashion to capture some gangsters in a hectic pier chase. As a result, the chief (Nick Offerman) sends them straight back to the intrepid Jump Street unit, and essentially instructs them to “just do the same thing as last time, and everybody will be happy.” This time, they find themselves assigned to a college, where a drug known as Wi-Fi has recently lead to the demise of an unfortunate young girl.
This movie, simply put is an absolute anomaly. Never before has a comedy sequel been so completely blatant in it’s repetition of the original formula, and end up so spectacularly funny. From frame one, Lord/Miller are cognizant of the audience’s expectations, and take us on a wild, relentless, gleefully silly ride that never looses the sharp satirical insight that made the first film so strong.
The chemistry between Hill and Tatum is just as strong as ever. Not only have they grown into the roles more fully here, but they give everything they have to the pure absurdity of the proceedings. Tatum is a riot as the endlessly energetic, lovely inept Jenko. He throws himself headlong into absolutely every joke with such an eagerness to please, that you can’t help but be receptive. The absolute funniest scene in the film reflects this, completely relying on his reactionary timing, and energy…it had my almost gaging for a solid minute. Hill is certainly no slouch either. He’s definitely playing the slightly more straight-man of the two, but never to the point where he stops being funny. Schmidt’s everlasting insecurities lead to some riotous moments, particularly one scene involving slam poetry in which he shows us that just about anything will be applauded if said in verse. Also scoring some heavy laughs here is Ice Cube, returning as the hot tempered Captain Dickinson. Definitely not anything we haven’t seen from him before, but it’s as vintage Cube as it gets, and his character is given a great deal more to do this time around.
I cannot praise Lord/Miller enough for their direction here. Their relentless pacing ensures that no joke stays on for too long, and that each and every one of them is entrenched in pure, beautiful silliness. Every frame of this film is invaded with sight gags, cameos, and any other little touches that could fuel the comedy. Most importantly though, no matter how many jokes they send our way, they all feel organic to the story, which despite being a retread of the first, actually manages to find many subtle ways to actually be pretty damn potent. Being a recently graduated high school student myself, the satire of wandering friendships, and new social expression hit home more then I expected to. Lord/Miller know exactly when to slow things down, even if it is just for a moment, to let us see just how much these two truly care about each other, and watching that friendship get tested by all of the social temptations of college is fascinating and hilarious.
I’m hard pressed to even consider problems in a movie that had me belly laughing from start to finish (a very hard task indeed), but if Ice Cube had me at gunpoint, I would say that perhaps one or two sequences could have been trimmed a tad. Every so often, things definitely start to feel a little dragged out. Also, eventually the jokes about the sameness of the proceedings do start to wear thin, but just as they start to get tiresome, they back off.
Overall, 22 Jump Street is not only by far the funniest film of the year (sorry Neighbors), but yet another home run for the unstoppable Lord/Miller. This is a movie that knows exactly what it is, and instead of treating that as a curse, turns it into it’s greatest blessing. Although judging by the spectacular closing credits gag, everyone involved seems reluctant to go for a three-peat, I personally would like nothing better then to join up with the best buddy cop duo of the 21st century for one last ride.