22 Jump Street (★★★)

twenty_two_jump_street_ver2Right off the bat, I have to let you know that if you haven’t seen 21 Jump Street, then I’m not sure that the sequel 22 Jump Street has anything to offer you. Not that you won’t be able to follow the story, but you probably won’t get the jokes or really the point of the whole thing in general. I say that because at least half of the funny moments in this movie are in direct relation to it being a sequel to that first one. This film exists to mock the existence of pointless sequels, which is rather ingenious. In some ways, 22 Jump Street is an even better movie than 21 Jump Street, but that’s splitting hairs. Co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have another success on their hands, due in no small part to the insanely good comedic chemistry between stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Watching them play off of each other is just so phenomenally enjoyable. Throw in the amusing opening and absolute laugh riot of an ending/credits sequence (I’ll say it…this might be the best credits sequence of all time) and there’s no shortage of things to enjoy. 22 Jump Street can’t recapture the surprising hilarity that the first one delivered, but this outing is basically just as good aside from that. It’s certainly one of the funniest flicks of the year so far.

After a “previously on 21 Jump Street” beginning, we meet Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) working a college case…an online college case. Before long though, they’re called into the office of Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) where they’re informed that the powers that be want the same thing out of them as last time, winking at the camera the whole time. They’re sent to Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who’s got a ton of money to spend on pointless excess due to the success of the previous installment. Eventually, he sends them to a local college to infiltrate a drug dealing ring. Sound familiar? That’s the point. This time, Jenko is immediately accepted as cool, hanging out with football star/frat dude/suspect Zook (Wyatt Russell), while Schmidt winds up with the oddball art kids, potentially beginning a romance with Maya (Amber Stevens). From there on, we get almost beat for beat the same movie over again, but done in such a way that we’re all in on the joke. On more than one occasion the characters even overtly state this as a plot point. It’s very clever stuff.

22-Jump-Street-Hill-Tatum-CubeThis movie doesn’t work without Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in their roles (something that gets a funny mention during those end credits I teased about). They’re just so good here. Hill is in his comfort zone and knocks this out of the park, so I’d actually say that Tatum is the more impressive one, proving that his comedic talents are no fluke. He needs to keep on this path, doing comedies where he can let loose (or Oscar contenders like Foxcatcher, of course). They’re both good on their own, but they’re the co-MVP’s when they share the screen. Ice Cube gets more to do this time around and nearly runs away with the movie. Nick Offerman has a bit more screen time to and again is a laugh riot. Aside from return cameo appearances of Dave Franco and Rob Riggle, other supporting players include the aforementioned Wyatt Russell and Amber Stevens as other potential pairs for our heroes. We also have Jillian Bell, Craig Roberts, and Peter Stormare on hand in small parts, but a special shout out has to go to former Awards Circuit colleague Keith Lucas, who shows up here with his brother Kenny Lucas (credited here as The Lucas Brothers). We all know the score though…this is Hill and Tatum’s show.

Whatever Phil Lord and Christopher Miller touches seems to turn to gold, and that’s again the case here. They allow themselves to engage in absolute insanity from their director’s chairs, but it’s a credit to their touch that it never becomes a mess. The script they have, which is credited to Michael Bacall, Rodney Rothman, Oren Uziel, and Hill is perhaps even more clever than the last one, though obviously not as original. The combination of Lord and Miller working with this screenplay leads to some very memorable moments. I will admit that the flick does tail off towards the end (until the credits come on and blow your mind), but it’s not a huge complaint. Everyone does far more right here than they do wrong.

Especially for a sequel that many assumed would be trash, 22 Jump Street is supremely entertaining. If it doesn’t blaze a completely new trail, it does give you a very different look at sequels than you’d normally get otherwise. I’m honestly caught between three and three and a half stars here, so I’m going with the more conservative score, but it’s basically a coin flip here. No matter how you slice it, 22 Jump Street is a ton of fun and should be a big success for all of you who dug the first one. Enjoy this insane film…

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!