22 Jump Street knows it’s a sequel. That may appear like an odd statement. It’s an accurate one. From the opening scene to the credits, the movie plays and comments on the fact that it’s a sequel. The first film, a reworking of the 80s television series of the same name, found Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) as a pair of bumbling cops that get assigned to work undercover as students in a high school. The mission; infiltrate the dealers, find the supply. Mission accomplished and millions made by all involved.
So, 21 Jump Street spawns a second mission. For Schmidt and Jenko, the new objective is clear; they have twice as much money to do the exact same thing. This recipe for success is doubted by a few characters in the movie, but hey, that’s the plan. So, our pair goes to college undercover this time and scene after scene mirrors that of the first, just as their police chief informs them it will in the onset of the narrative.
Directing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return to the helm, bringing the same infectious, off-the-wall energy that they did the first time. Hill still works on the script with Michael Bacall, though they have two other writing partners this time. 21 Jump Street was a definite surprise, the latest in a string of television remakes for the big screen. At the time Tatum was viewed as popular, if dull. The movie is one of the funniest movies of recent years, packed with well crafted jokes that bounce off funny, diverse characters, all while being just meta enough about the oddness of the premise to refrain from tipping into congratulatory. The second go-around is a bit more complicated.
22 Jump Street has a significant amount of laughs. Tatum and Hill still share an amusing, playful chemistry. The creative team set the table for wild scenes, going big on several set-pieces like the true-identity of Schmidt’s new girlfriend and a deadly fight that weirdly keeps curdling into a near sex-scene. There are some nice new additions to the cast, particularly the Lucas brothers as our heroes’ twin dorm-mates and Jillian Bell as a student who won’t let go of just how old Schmidt and Jenko look, inquiring on their memories of “The Golden Girls” and stickball.
There are a number of moments in 22 Jump Street that undoubtedly will be as funny as any others in 2014. Yet, something is missing. The quality and density of the writing isn’t up to the first film. Stretches of the movie go by where lines are uttered that are fine and forgotten. 21 had a strong supporting cast including, amongst others, Brie Larson, Dave Franco and Rob Riggle, each of which brought a different element to the comic flavor through out. This version is scattered. We’ve gone from over a dozen characters that made an impact to a handful.
It’s all the comedic equivalent of an action movie featuring terrific visuals and a baggy story. The horror movie with nightmarish scares and inconsistent acting. When 22 Jump Street is on its game, it’s great. That is not a consistent thing though.
22 Jump Street opens wide all across Seattle tomorrow.