Article By: Dan Clark
When 21 Jump Street came out it had little expectations. A reboot of a heavily dated late 80’s television program that will be directed by people who never made a live-action film before?—surely it will fail. Not only did it not fail it was both a critical and financial smash hit. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller took the ridiculousness of the reboot and used it in their favor by making it an updated meta spoof on Hollywood’s need to reboot everything. Now the question becomes, can they do it again?
In short the answer to that question is a solid yes. 22 Jump Street keeps with the tradition of the first film, but also takes on the well-established culture of movie sequels. The concept is by no means groundbreaking. (Scream 2 did it way back in olden days of the 1990’s) What makes it work is the inventive execution that presents it in a familiar but fresh manner. At times the running joke does grow tired. Luckily the enigmatic charm of Channing Tatum and Johan Hill are enough to keep the energy going.
The setup is very similar to the first film; as the film so eloquently puts it, “Do the exact same thing again and everyone is happy”. This time however, the undercover cop duo of Schmidt and Jenko are headed to college to track down the dealer of a new synthetic drug called Wyfy. Quickly they find out the same formula does not always produce the same results. In order to solve this case they may need to do things a tad bit differently.
Channing Tatum and Johan Hill work well as this odd couple of action comedy. Tatum is the hulking action star capable of super human like feats, while Hill works as the schlubby overly emotional partner that brings the brains to the operation. Making a mockery out of the athletic gap between Hill and Tatum are easy jokes to hit, but they are hit so commendably you can forgive the broad approach. Their bromance rapport becomes a major staple for much of the comedy.
Last time directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller spoofed a great deal of overused action tropes, like how things would conveniently explode during car chases. This time that commentary was more focused on the romantic genre, as Schmidt and Jenko’s partnership was treated like a Notebook esc relationship. Two people whose differences once drew them together are now pushing them apart. Tatum and Hill made these jokes work brilliantly. They walked every so closely to being too obvious but never quite made it over the edge. Watching Jenko party like a jock-star at a frat house while Schmidt sulked in his loneliness was awkwardly hilarious.
The deconstruction of the framework of sequels and relationship dramas was widely successful. At the same time it was both a spoof and an effective entry into the genre. Eventually even good jokes can run stale. Much of the comedy was the same joke just worded differently, and when everyone is in on the joke it loses some of its sharpness. Previously the comedy was much more varied as it added in elements like reexamining the way high school life is now compared to when the show first originated. There are times where it approaches similar ground—more so on how college life is eerily the same. It does lead to amusing moments, like an open mic poetry jam session where Schmidt is placed far out of his element. Those jokes were just too few and far between.
Some of the additional side characters did bring in a great deal of new life. Jillian Bell who played the roommate of Schmidt’s college girlfriend was a constant source of amusement. Her overgrown child look juxtaposed with her biting comments on Schmidt’s age caused her to almost steal the show. (For someone who is around the same age as Schmidt some of the old age cracks did hit a little too close to home) In addition the unexpected reveal of who Schmidt’s girlfriend really is leads to some of the biggest and best jokes of the entire movie. The situation he finds himself in is rather forced, and script keeps the meta nature going by pointing that out.
Movie spoofs and action comedies are both dead genres in today’s world. 21 Jump Street and now 22 Jump Street give us to solid entries into both. They take the ideas of both concepts in new places for a new generation. 22 Jump Street’s action is nowhere near as strong as its comedy, nevertheless it is strong enough to support the narrative. Channing Tatum and Johan Hill have taken both of their respected talents and meshed them together into one well maintained comedic machine. If the brilliantly ironic closing credits are to be believed Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have plenty of material to keep this franchise going, and I for one will be on board.