The most definitive statement that could be made about 22 Jump Street is that anyone who enjoyed 21 Jump Street will adore 22. For those who didn’t see the first send-up, and everybody else, go see the new release because it will make you laugh, and that’s always a good thing.
Just for background: the original TV series that ran from 1987 to 1991 was not a comedy by any standard, nor meant to be. 21 Jump Street the TV show was concerned with crime amongst young people and involved young under-cover cops trying to deal with teen crimes in high school and college.
About 20 years after the show went off the air Phil Lord and Christopher Miller came up with a hit movie by the same name, an off-the-wall take-off on the police procedural starring the unlikely duo of
. The remarkable onscreen chemistry between Tatum and Hill made them a comedy team not even the producers could have anticipated – and left the door open for a sequel, if anyone dared to try it.
Lord and Miller dared, and did, and now we have 22 Jump Street, the same undercover cops but moved across the road from 21 because ‘the Koreans wanted their church back’ or something like that. Instead of high school the mostly inept cops Jenko and Schmidt infiltrate the collegiate scene, but they have the same agenda, which is busting a drug ring.
As a sequel the film does what so few sequels have done; it improves on the original without doing much of anything different. What makes it work so well is what appears to be an absolute disregard for any particular rules for making successful sequels: 22 has the same plot, the same characters and mostly the same slapstick humor as 21, and parodies the original drama and even more the original parody.
Channing Tatum as Jenko and Jonah Hill as Schmidt could not be more mis-matched or more perfectly matched; they play off each other with spontaneous ease and with truly hilarious results. Mind you, this is not high brow comedy, this is raunchy, silly, wildly spastic comedy that works whether you approve or not.
In what’s arguably the only ‘plot twist’ the film offers, there’s a falling-out between Schmidt and Jenko when Tatum’s dumb jock character bonds with another jock named Zook, played by Wyatt Russell. The smart nerd Schmidt feels betrayed even though has also developed a bit of outside interest in an arty-smarty called Maya. If this were a ‘serious’ film we might be hoping both players would grow up, but in this case that’s not an option.
Ice Cube as the guys’ foul-tempered police chief Dickson has some good scenes and some good lines and he makes the most of them. Jillian Bell as Maya’s roommate Mercedes, one of those ultra snotty smart chicks, is nothing short of brilliant in a fairly minor role that will undoubtedly lead to bigger things.
Opening Friday 13 June, 22 Jump Street may not be everybody’s cup of hooch, but anyone who can sit through it without laughing is a bit uptight.