Oh, sequels, how we loathe thee. Comedy is a particularly problematic subset of this realm of cinematic misery. It’s practically impossible to recapture the magic of an amazing film for a follow-up; we sometimes wonder why they bother trying.
Oh, right: Money.
But there’s always something missing. They made Van Wilder 2 without Ryan Reynolds. They made Major League II without Wesley Snipes. They made Evan Almighty, period.
How can 22 Jump Street ever hope to match the boisterous, buddy-cop bromantic comedy that was 21 Jump Street?
It can’t, and it doesn’t.
Because it’s even better.
When last we saw the folks at the Jump Street division, seeming born-loser Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and statuesque dim-bulb Jenko (Channing Tatum) had cracked the HFS (Holy Fucking Shit) case, the former becoming campus king while the latter served as court jester. After making the grade undercover at high school, it turns out they kinda suck as regular cops.
Like, hilariously bad.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? So it’s back to doing the exact same thing as before. Seriously. They go to college, under the same identities, to investigate another synth-drug that’s about to go viral — WHYPHY (Work Hard? Yes Play Hard? Yes), a combination of adderall and ecstasy that lets you do exactly as the name describes.
Practically identical. It’s crazy they’d have such a similar case, right?
Except this time, it’s Jenko’s turn to shine. He goes full alpha-bro and joins the football team as a walk-on whilst investigating potential WHYPHY links. Might as well frat it up with ‘em too, right? After his meet-cute with star QB Zook (Wyatt Russell), Schmidt gets left out in the cold. Somehow, he hooks up with a smoking hot coed, Maya (Amber Stevens), who lived across from the stereotypical student-overdose that inspired the investigation (as for that coupling, it’s a good thing the audience likely has a healthy suspension of disbelief, ‘cause, DAMN).
Tensions rise between best buds as leads go cold and they each do their own thing, deciding to investigate other people. Can they keep it together long enough to infiltrate the dealers and find the supplier (again)?
22 Jump Street is exactly what the title suggests: its predecessor taken to another level, with more meta-humor than you ever thought possible, codependence you have to see to believe and Jonah Hill scoring even further out of his league (seriously, straight-up fiction right there). They go big on the joke-within-a-joke shtick, testing the limits of the fourth wall, as in just shy of too much. There are plenty of hilarious Jenkoisms (“the anals of history”) and more-than-memorable offerings from Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). Keep your eyes open for Easter eggs galore and stay through the credits, like you should in almost every movie these days (thanks for making that an everyday thing, Marvel).
There’s still plenty of chemistry between the leads. While slapstick/stupid humor has been Hill’s milieu from the get-go, Tatum is really finding his mark with off-the-wall, self-effacing roles like this. It’s refreshing to see him cut loose and have fun with a gig. Russell makes for an affable Jenko clone and Stevens is hot, sassy and clever. While it’s nice to pop in with Dave Franco and Rob Riggle, the villainy is cast even better this time around.
22 Jump Street avoids the sequel syndrome by merely tweaking the formula and kicking it up a notch or 10. Fans of the first will love the same brand of hilarious idiocy; if you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll miss some quality nods at the predecessor but can still lose your shit over the new one.