Bumbling drug-busting cop duo returns for hilarious higher-ed hijinks
22 Jump Street
Starring Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill
Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
R, 112 min.
In a summer of sequels, the most laughs so far, and by far, come from a raunchy retro repeat that makes plenty of fun of its own recycled folly—and expense.
And it totally works. A follow-up to the 2012 hit comedy 21 Jump Street, a big-screen parody of the TV series of the late 1980s, this do-over reunites the duo of Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill), bumbling undercover-cop partners again trying to pass themselves off as students, only this time at a college instead of a high school.
The silly shoestring of a plot involves Jenko and Schmidt’s task to break up a dangerous drug pipeline called “WhyPhy,” which has caused the death of a coed. But that’s really just a loosey-goosey framework for a goofy R-rated grab bag of jokes, puns, sight gags and riffs, many of which are truly hilarious, as the two would-be students try to infiltrate campus life.
“I’m the first person from my family to pretend to go to college,” says Jenko.
Most of the humor revolves around their attempts at blending in, especially since everyone notices immediately how much older they are than everyone else. (“Tell us about the war—any one of them,” prods one student.) But Schmidt impresses his classmates at an improv slam-poetry event (“Jesus died, runaway bride” is one of his on-the-fly couplets), and Jenko relives his teenage fantasy of becoming a football star, befriending the school’s dude-ish quarterback (Wyatt Russell, the son of Goldie Hawn and Curt Russell) and setting up a “bro-mantic triangle” subplot.
Patton Oswald pops up in one scene as a professor trying to coax coherent thoughts out of Tatum’s character’s thick head, and the Comedy Central duo of the Lucas Brothers, identical twins Kenny and Keith, make the screen hum with groovy energy every second they’re onscreen as laid-back, comically synchronized roommates.
Returning as Capt. Dickson, rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube still gets howls with his scowl and plays a pivotal role in one of the movie’s funniest scenes—a “gotcha” that truly sneaks up on you, which is a testament to the craft of returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose other collaborations include Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and The LEGO Movie.
A recurring theme is an in-joke about just how lazy (and pricey) it is to just do the same thing over again—in this case, the same characters, same plot, same directors. “Exactly like last time,” dryly notes Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman from TV’s Parks and Recreation.
A chase across the campus—with drug lords in a Hummer pursuing Jenko and Schmidt in a little cart with an enormous football helmet “cab”—destroys everything in its path. At one point, the cart comes to a split: Which way should it go?
“Whichever way’s cheaper!” Jenko shouts.
The bawdy comedy tap runs wide open in 22 Jump Street. It may be a ridiculously expensive retread, but man, just about every jolly dollar gets a laugh.
—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine