21 Jump Street was a surprise success for me and, apparently, many other people. The movie remake of the 1980’s TV hit was a meta-joke heavy, action packed movie that was just fun escapism for a couple of hours. It helped that Tatum and Hill had a good chemistry on screen as unlikely undercover partners. So, of course, that meant that there had to be a follow-up to the movie. I mean, it’s like printing free money at this point isn’t it? 22 Jump Street almost seemed like it was made under protest in the same way that something like Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” was. The movie is incredibly self-aware that it’s a sequel that’s being made to capitalize on the success of the first film and that it’s fighting an uphill battle to capture the same success as the first movie.In both movies, Nick Offerman’s character is there to tell exactly what’s going on in the film with pinpoint, borderline 4th wall breaking accuracy. The idea is pretty simple: do the same thing you did the first time. That’s what people liked and that’s what was successful. So, as much as you may want to try to, don’t diverge from doing exactly what you did before and everything will be fine.
This film picks up right where 21 Jump Street left off, with Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) being told they’re going off to college. It turns out that it was online college. They’re spending they’re time listening to online lectures to decode messages and break-up shipments of unknown product. Their first on screen foray into this new line of work doesn’t go well and they end up wrecking a ship yard and losing the criminals. This leads them back to the Deputy Chief’s office (Nick Offerman) where he explains to them that the reason they failed is because they didn’t do the same tired schtick as last time. To remedy that he sends them back to Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) to have them take on another undercover case. When they get back to Jump Street they find that their base has been moved across the street to 22 Jump Street. The captain gives them a similar mission to their last one. They have to find the dealer of a new synthetic drug and shutdown the distribution ring. The Captain even gives them the same instructions as last time: “find the dealer” etc, etc. It’s amazing that like 40% of Ice Cube’s dialogue between the two movies is actually just one single line. The guys go undercover at MC State where they, once again get split into two different social groups. Schmidt ends up with the artsy kids and Jenko ends up with the frat boys and football players. Once again, the difference in their social statuses drives them apart until the case brings them back together and they reconcile. It also turns out that they’ve been chasing the case from the wrong direction. Once they figure that out they’re able to piece together who the real drug runner is. It turns out that, once again, the real criminal is related to the criminal they couldn’t catch at the beginning of the movie and it results in a balls-to the wall chase at Spring Break in Mexico.
That is pretty much the entire plot of the movie in one paragraph. Of course, the plot isn’t really what you care about when you go to watch an action/comedy like this. What you want to know is this: “Is it funny”. The short answer is “yes”. This movie is funny and does not take itself seriously in the slightest. As I already mentioned, there’s a lot of humor derived from the fact that they know the movie is a sequel and all of the trappings that come with making a sequel. There’s also some really good references to the actual actors. For instance, there’s one point where they make a joke about the idea of the two cops being secret service agents that help save the president from terrorists, which is a clear shot at Channing’s role in White House Down. There’s also a moment when they see Captain Dickson’s new office and Schmidt remarks that it looks like he’s inside a “literal cube of ice”. There’s also just the great back and forth between Tatum and Hill. The best moments of the movie come when the two of them are talking to another person. My two favorites are a scene where they are having a multilayered therapy session with the school’s counselor and later when they’re talking to the Captain and Jenko finds out the identity of the girl that Schmidt slept with earlier.
Aside from Hill and Tatum I really appreciated Jillian Bell’s performance as the Kim-Pine-like Mercedes. Her deadpan insulting of Schmidt was a little strange to me at first but as the movie went on I really liked how she fit into things. Especially toward the end of the movie when she has a really awkward fight scene with Schmidt. There are some other fun cameos in the movie, but not a lot of other featured performers that I felt were as memorable as her. Although, I do like that Ice Cube got to play a larger role in this movie, even if it was mostly just him being angry. The smaller roles were played by people like Queen Latifah who shows up as Mrs. Captain Dicskon, Marc Evan Murphy who plays the school psychiatrist, and Rob Riggle and Dave Franco who briefly reprise their roles from the previous film. That doesn’t really scratch the surface of the number of cameos that there are in the movie but finding them all is part of the fun.
The one issue I had with the movie is that it beat the sequel joke into the ground. In just writing this article I feel like I’ve mentioned it too many times, but that’s a consequence of just how prevalent it is in the film. Around the time the guys have their therapy session, the movie pretty much lets that joke go. Unfortunately, that’s well over an hour into the movie and it had grown tiresome long before that. I think what makes it so hard to deal with is that it starts to feel inescapable because the joke is done by so many different characters. This is why I said the movie felt like it was being made under protest. I could easily see a scenario where the studio just told the movie makers “just do the same thing again”, over and over. If that were the case it would be easy to see this as a direct jab at the movie’s creative overlords. I have no evidence that this is what actually happened, I’m just saying it’s a possibility. The sequel joke did have one bright spot in the movie, which was the ending. At the end of the movie they play off of the ending to the first movie where the guys are sent to college and just show a bunch of different Jump Street premises, taking them all the way up to 40-something Jump Street. It puts the guys in little quick clips of everything from medical school to dance school.
While it was a nice joke, the ending sequence suggests that there won’t actually be a 23 Jump Street. Even though I did enjoy this movie, I can’t say that I’d be upset if it’s the last one in the series. It’s a fun movie that knows exactly what it is and plays to that as well as can be expected.
Even though this is funny, I don’t see a reason to go watch it in a theater unless theaters are cheap where you are or you’re looking for a brief escape. This is the kind of movie that’s probably better watched at home or with friends where you can feel free to laugh out loud or talk over the movie.