When “21 Jump Street” was released two years ago, no one believed that it would be successful, and for good reason, given that it was a spinoff of a popular crime procedural drama from the 1980s. Instead, what audiences and critics got was a relentlessly gut-busting film aware of the tropes of action and 80s teen flicks. Now, the whole crew has returned to deliver “22 Jump Street,” which attempts to overcome another obstacle: creating a sequel that holds a candle to, or even surpasses, the original. With plenty of bromantic chemistry and self-reflexive humor, this sequel passes with flying colors.
“22 Jump Street” is a sequel marked by the return of two dynamic duos. First of all, directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who co-directed “21 Jump Street,” returned to keep the original film’s signature blend of irreverent and self-aware comedy in tact. Along with the return of screenwriter Michael Bacall, Lord and Miller show their experience by crafting a sequel that is every bit as funny as the first film.
“21 Jump Street” was marked by fast pacing, aided by a laugh-a-minute script that rarely gave the audience a moment of respite from the comedy, and “22 Jump Street” is no different. Itgrabs the audience by the throat and refuses to slow down as it moves to and from numerous scenes of hilarity. Additionally, like the original, the film does not take itself seriously, leading to more effective humor.
More noticeably, “22” signals the return of characters Schmidt and Jenko, played by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, respectively. Even after the success and popularity of the first film, the two still look like the unlikeliest of pairs, but thanks to the material provided to them, they are able to get by with goofy charm and chemistry. Their bromance remains strong and carries the film, just as it did in the original, and it shows in their respective performances.
Jonah Hill is an experienced comedic actor, so his strong performance, while more than satisfying, is unsurprising. Even now, Channing Tatum’s comedic ability still surprises me. For the longest time, I was never sold on him as a leading man, but with the work he has done with Steven Soderbergh and these two “Jump Street” films, he has proven himself to be more versatile than I would have expected.
Finally, like the original, “22” displays some sharp self-reflexivity that elevates the humor above other mainstream comedies. This time around, the humor is geared toward sequels. In essence, “22 Jump Street” is kind of the same film as its predecessor, with a familiar story and similar plot points. Like the first film, Jenko and Schmidt must investigate a drug ring and find the supplier while their friendship gets tested. They even get inadvertently high on the drug they are investigating, accompanied by a vibrantly psychedelic sequence.
Both “Jump Street” films may seem inherently similar, but the second film’s awareness of the conventions and expectations of sequels to popular films makes up for the familiarity. For example, in one scene when Jenko and Schmidt meet with Deputy Chief Hardy (played by Nick Offerman), Hardy speaks of the unexpected success and improvements made to the Jump Street program in the narrative, but his dialogue is a not-so-subtle parallel to the unexpected success of the first “Jump Street” film, and so what followed were ‘improvements’ like a bigger budget.
With “22 Jump Street” and “The LEGO Movie” from earlier this year, Phil Lord and Chris Miller have established themselves as dynamic virtuosos of comedic films with substantial depth and subtext. In the “Jump Street” films, these two have created movies that are fast-paced, brash, and undeniably hilarious. For now, it seems their partnership echoes that of Jenko and Schmidt’s. In one scene with Schmidt and his new love interest, Maya (played by Amber Stevens), Maya explains to Schmidt a statue of two egg-shaped structures leaning on one another, each needing the other support it, or else it will fall. Let’s hope Lord and Miller’s partnership does not end for years to come.
Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 4