Let’s face it: the primary response to the “21 Jump Street” reboot from 2012 was “well… that was a lot better than I thought it would be”. And that’s not necessarily a knock to the gritty original 80’s series, or to stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, or to now Hollywood it-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The knock was to the fact that it was yet another attempt at a big-screen reboot. Hollywood running out of ideas, yet again.
Then the movie came out. And yes, it was a lot better than you thought it would be.
Rather than go for a retread of the 80’s series, Lord and Miller aimed for a Apatow-esque R-rated action-comedy romp that was not only well plotted and acted (Channing Tatum, comedy star?!) but also really, really funny.
Now that the joke on us is over, it’s time to face another Hollywood fact: anything that’s remotely popular at the box office will get a sequel. Enter the self-aware “22 Jump Street”.
Fresh off their high school drug bust, undercover cops Schmidt and Jenko (Hill and Tatum) find themselves unable to duplicate their success out in the real world. Fortunately, the police department realizes they are a bunch of one-trick ponies and brings them back into the Jump Street program, this time conveniently located at 22 Jump Street. (The film takes it’s hilarious time pointing out the coincidental similarities between the Jump Street program and the sequel itself.)
This time, as alluded to at the very end of the first movie, Schmidt and Jenko are sent to college to infiltrate and find the source of a new hip drug that combines the laser-focus of Adderall and the high of Ecstacy. In a flip from the first time, Jenko has a great time bonding with the football jocks while Jenko wallows with the low-key art majors.
The thing that makes “22” different from most Hollywood sequels is exactly what made the first film so great: it never takes itself seriously. And while this can lead to some dull hit-or-miss moments, it doesn’t matter. The hit moments are great enough that you’re able to gloss over any of the misses.
Compared to the first film, “22 Jump Street” misses a little bit more. It’s a bit long and over-plotted, and the fact they keep pointing out how they’re not going with a retread of the previous movie gets a little grating. Thankfully, Hill and Tatum are in perfect comedic symmetry. This film also gives Channing Tatum more time to goof off, which leads to some pretty hilarious stuff.
Overall, “22 Jump Street” isn’t a sequel so good that it will leave you forgetting about the first movie. But it also isn’t a desperate cash-grab, as it so eloquently points out. Instead it’s everything great about “21 Jump Street” only continued in a different fashion. That’s the way a sequel should be.
(Note: Please stay for the end credits, as the aforementioned Hollywood “sequel-itis” is fleshed out in some gut-busting ways.)