After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.
Year 2, Film #78
THE REVIEW: When I saw 21 Jump Street in theaters two years ago, I was blown away with how hilarious the film turned out to be. I was not expecting it to be the breakout hit that it turned out to be and was genuinely impressed with the job that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (also directors of this year’s The Lego Movie) did. That being said, it left me with high expectations for the sequel, 22 Jump Street and was pleasantly surprised with the result. While I think it’s far from the level that Lord and Miller set in the first film, 22 Jump Street still delivers a high number of laughs all doing, “the exact same thing [they] did in the first one.”
One of the best parts about 21 Jump Street was that it was highly self-aware with its humor. Many of the jokes were made at the film’s own expense including gags about the film being a cheap reboot of the original TV show just to make some more money and observations about the over-explosive nature (or lack thereof) of modern films that use explosions to get cheap thrills from the audience. This comedy carries over into 22 Jump Street and as you might expect, a lot of the humor is now directed at this film being a sequel. A lot of jokes are made with regard to increase in budget, pay raises for the actors, and as I quoted above, doing the exact same thing as the last time because that’s what people want. Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) and Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube), two of the funniest, albeit rarely seen characters, from the first film come back with slightly bigger roles in this sequel (Capt. Dickson especially has a much bigger role to play) and are the source of many of these sequel jokes. However, it feels like 22 Jump Street relies on these jokes much more than the original did. Instead of trusting that their other sources of comedy — relationship between Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), placing these middle-aged guys in college, a very cliché story — could deliver the laughs, Lord and Miller rely on the self-aware humor. It’s like their insecure with their good jokes and fall back on the easy laughs — much like going for a fart joke or someone getting kicked in the nuts — rather than trust in some of the quality jokes they have strewn throughout the rest of the film.
And they do have some quality jokes throughout the film. The three elements I listed earlier — relationship between Schmidt and Jenko, middle-aged guys in college, and cliché story — are rich with laughs. The whole premise of the story (being in college rather than high school) I think is much better than the original and provides many more opportunities than 21 Jump Street could have obtained. High school is funny, but college can be hilarious and 22 Jump Street realizes this. You get the frat jokes, living in dorms rather than with parents, and allowing Schmidt to go farther so to speak than he could in high school. Like 21 Jump Street, there were many times where I found myself rolled over in my seat clutching the armrest because I was laughing so hard and many of those moments were not in the trailer at all (always a good sign for a comedy when you have more than just what you see in the trailer).
But unfortunately, these fantastic and hilarious moments always seemed to be cut short in favor of the, “Look at us, we’re making a sequel and we’re going to make fun of that fact!” jokes. What was so great about the original was they knew when enough was enough. Most of those jokes were compressed into the two minutes of screentime that Deputy Chief Hardy got and then you were left with jokes and funny moments that arose naturally from the story and characters. In 22 Jump Street, these self-aware jokes are much more common throughout the film rather than isolated to one or two moments. As much as I enjoy Nick Offerman’s character and think he’s brilliant, I can’t help but feel that his appeal in these films is as a short interlude that sets up the basis for what’s to come. Capt. Dickson had a much more expanded role that I very much enjoyed (I would never seriously consider Ice Cube getting an Oscar nomination for this role, but he truly does an outstanding job) but he was probably the next biggest source of sequel jokes. Again, I very much enjoy the film making fun of itself, especially for its status as a sequel. It’s just that it was too overdone this time around and it took away from the other funny moments that provide many more laughs than just a cheap shot does.
If you enjoyed the humor in 21 Jump Street than you will very much enjoy seeing 22 Jump Street. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have really made a name for themselves over the past few years and they’re now on my list of, “Will see anything they make.” While I felt they focused too much on acknowledging their status as a sequel (thereby trying to alleviate the sequel issues merely by admitting they exist), I still laughed quite a bit and had a good time seeing Schmidt and Jenko working together yet again to, “Infiltrate the dealer and find the supplier.” Despite focusing a lot on sequel jokes, there were many new, untapped sources for comedy that were opened in 22 Jump Street that still make this a film worth seeing. It’s not the definite “Best Comedy of the Year” like 21 Jump Street was right after seeing it, but it certainly has potential for that title.
THE RATING: 4 out of 5