I go into every comedy sequel with low expectations. Why? Because there has never been a good comedy sequel. It’s always the studio saying look how much money so and so movie made; let’s make another one that’s the exact same movie but not as funny and original. So, when 21 Jump Street became the sleeper box office hit in the summer of 2012, a sequel was inevitable.
22 Jump Street is the best comedy sequel ever made!
Any doubts I had about 22 Jump Street disappeared when the words, “Previously on 21 Jump Street” flashed across the screen and we got a recap of everything that happened in the first film. Then there’s a scene where Schmidt and Jenko are reporting to HQ and they see a sign that reads, “23 Jump Street Condos Coming Soon.” This movie is self-aware and doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest.
From then on the jokes come at you fast and hard. Any critique you may have about it’s plotting or jokes, 22 Jump Street has already thought of a response and makes a joke about it before you can even address it. It even knows it’s a sequel and realizes that sequels can sometimes be truly awful. 22 Jump Street plays on our expectations of sequels. You get Nick Offerman’s police Chief constantly repeating things like, “Just like the first time; do the exact same thing, everyone’s happy.”
Even the case is similar to the first film. Schmidt and Jenko are sent to Metro City College to investigate the distribution of a new drug called “WhyPhy” (you better believe they make a WiFi joke). From there it’s same story as the last time, find the dealer, which will lead them to the supplier and stop this new drug from taking over Metro City. So the Chief tells them, “Make it like the first time.”
However, Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller never play it like the first time. Yeah they play on our notions that sequels usually end up being like the first film but it very much a film with it’s own direction. Everything is cranked up a notch from the first time around, it’s sillier, it’s sweeter, and it’s even more meta. Guys, Channing Tatum makes a joke about going undercover as secret service agents at the White House, you can hear the fourth wall almost buckle.
As silly and meta as this movie gets, Lord and Miller always take the relationship of Jenko and Schmidt seriously. Their relationship is actually the bigger focus here. After the events of the first film Jenko and Schmidt are now inseparable bros. However, on their new assignment Jenko becomes friends with Zook (Wyatt Russell, Kurt Russell’s son who I didn’t know existed) a popular football player. In the first film, Schmidt was the popular one and Jenko wasn’t, this time the tables have turned and Schmidt is not happy about it.
Their bromance is handled as if you were watching a romantic comedy. Every line of dialogue has rom com tones to it but none of it plays as gay panic. An example is a scene where Jenko and Schmidt pretend to be a gay couple to investigate a psychiatrist. That scene helps to get closer to the problem with their relationship. The film portrays their relationship as something sweet and the joke is that they aren’t aware of how people perceive them together. These two guys love each other but it’s platonic love. They do know how close they are and they do know how important they are to each other.
From the two men, Channing Tatum’s Jenko is the most fun to watch. He’s not afraid of being ridiculous and engages in a brand of physical comedy that no one does anymore. He has the physique for it and he uses it again and again throughout the film. I want Lord and Miller to keep working with Tatum because they seem to bring out the best performances out of him. His character is dumb yes, but he’s loveable in his idiocy.
Comedies don’t need to have a laugh a minute but 22 Jump Street does and to an unfair degree. The moment you catch your breath from laughing, the film hits you with another joke. And the jokes come in the form of physical gags, one liners, meta moments, pop culture references, etc. My whole body hurt by the end of the movie, especially due to two moments that will have you in tears with laughter.
Besides the movie being punishingly funny it’s one of the better made and fully realized comedies of the year. Yeah it has faults such as the main criminal case being basically a subplot, but Lord and Miller are such great visual directors and have the case lead to entertaining chases, spectacular action and great comedy set pieces that you’d rather have those moments than focus on an uninteresting case. The film deserves to be watched several times and you’ll definitely find some great moments you missed the first time around.
Is 22 Jump Street better than the first film? I think so and I already hold the first film to such high regards. Phil Lord and Chris Miller gave us two great films this year alone (The Lego Movie & 22 Jump Street); these guys are on a roll. In doubling down on the chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum and giving Ice Cube a lot more to do; 22 Jump Street is a deeper and funnier experience than the first movie.
Score: 9.5 out of 10.