The Hollywood sequel is sometimes a given nowadays. If a movie is popular, or more importantly brings in money, it has to be replicated so that more money can be made. But sometimes a movie is just not fresh enough to bring new, or original, ideas to the sequel and a stale, rehashed effort is released instead. This idea is the object of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s latest 22 Jump Street, which examines not only the comedy sequel, but the Hollywood sequel, and attempts to turn it on its head.
22 Jump Street reunites the dynamic duo of Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) after their miraculous victory in the first movie. This time around, the two are heading to college, with as they put it many times, the exact same plot as the first time.
This riff of doing it the exact same as the first time is a consistent message throughout the film as it plays into the making fun of sequel mold that the script is built around. This time though, Jenko is the one who befriends the suspect with Schmidt falling behind and feeling left out. While again this could feel rehashed and tried, the switch works perfectly mainly due to the fact that watching a mopey, depressed Jonah Hill is way funnier than a down in the dumps Channing Tatum. Hill’s knack for improv and physical comedy allows him to create hilarious moments in the small things.
The supporting cast fills out with an expanded role for Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), a new love interest for Schmidt in Maya (Amber Stevens), and a scene-stealing roommate in Mercedes (Jillian Bell). Playing the quick witted roommate of Maya, Bell stole every scene she was in with her attacks on Schmidt’s age and his physique. Outside of Bell, Ice Cube was given more to work with this time around and allowed for an utterly hilarious side-plot with Schmidt.
After becoming the break-out star of 21 Jump Street, Tatum is much of the same as Jenko with a similar style of humor from the first film in this new one. He continues to show a strong range of comedy through these movies and improves slightly on his performance in the former.
Where 22 Jump Street steers into trouble though is in the meta-humor about sequels. In one particular scene, Dickson is talking to Schmidt and Jenko about how everything is beefed up in their new offices. They have new computers, new offices, and it all looks like something Tony Stark would buy. In a riff on studios flooding more money into a movie that did well the first time, 22 Jump Street gets bogged down in getting to the punchline of the sequels joke and forgets to make you laugh off of its originality and visual gags.
Probably the best visual comedy directors outside of Edgar Wright are Phil Lord and Chris Miller but in this movie, it seems like they are more restrained and use the script to create laughs rather than using something visual. The joy of the first movie was its self-awareness and ability to use visual comedy to propel the jokes into something incredible, but with this movie, it looks like they were more interested in being self-aware of the sequel jokes and forgot about the visuals.
While not taking away from the movie, it shows that sometimes your greatest weapon can hurt you if you use it too much and 22 Jump Street overuses their weapon of self-awareness.
Either way, the movie is still one of the best comedies of the year (only rivaled by Lord/Miller’s own Lego Movie) and a welcomed quality comedy sequel. While Lord and Miller have some skids in the road in this film, they still show that they are some of the more creative directors working today in comedy and their understanding of genre is impressive. Hill and Tatum continue to have some of the greatest chemistry and beg you to ask for more Jump Street in the future.