There's a running gag throughout Phil Lord and Chris Miller's hilarious 22 Jump Street that it's basically your typical sequel, ripping off the same old jokes and situations while just making things bigger. The more Meta the film gets the funnier it is, and the truth is that they aren't really lying. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are back as best buds and keystone coppers Jenko and Schmidt; they're busting up another student-run drug ring; and the same polarizing forces that broke the duo up the last time are again in effect. But you know what? You'll be laughing too damn hard to care that sometimes 22 Jump Street feels a little familiar, especially since that is kind of the point.
What Lord and Miller have done is up the ante on a follow-up nobody thought would ever happen. The "inside joke" of 21 Jump Street was that it was always sort of destined to fail being a remake of a silly TV show few actually watched. So 22 Jump Street cuts loose and indulges in the bombastic and formulaic nature of movie sequels, dutifully ripped through the welcome return of Nick Offerman's deadpan police sergeant. He tasks Jenko and Schmidt to basically do the exact same thing as before, shipping them off across the street to 22 Jump Street where the unit has taken up shop at the bigger, gaudier Vietnam Church appropriately described as something Iron Man would love.
When the perpetually angry and arguably even angrier Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube) ships them off to college to find the supplier of a new designer drug, Jenko and Schmidt are thrust into a campus life they are ill-equipped to handle. Not only aren't they fooling anybody because of their obvious advanced age, but they begin to feel the pull of the social pecking order. Jenko joins the football team and becomes friends with Zook (Wyatt Russell, a dead ringer for his father Kurt), the squad's QB and potential suspect in the case. Meanwhile, Schmidt is feeling left out until he hooks up...in more ways than one...with brainy art student Maya (Amber Stevens) who brings him more trouble than expected.
And it's to Lord and Miller's credit, along with the trio of screenwriters, that for all the intentional riffs on what came before, there is still plenty left to be discovered. So yes, we get the token "bad drug trip" scene, which is still pretty funny when those are usually phoned in, and the plenty of Michael Bay-inspired action sequences. But we also get a lot more of Ice Cube as Dickson is woven into the plot in a way that powers the humor for the entire second half. There are so many jokes that a second or third viewing will be necessary to catch them all and even then it may not be enough.
Say what you want about Channing Tatum but he'll do literally anything he's asked to do comedically. While he still has great chemistry with Hill, who continue to seem like the bestest buds ever, Tatum shoulders much of the physical and emotional burden here. We've seen this same "falling for a girl out of his league" storyline for Schmidt before, but Jenko is finally in a place where he is truly comfortable and not a fish out of water. It causes some interesting friction between the two partners that is played up nicely for a while, but then becomes just an endless stream of tiresome homoerotic jokes. With all of the trouble Hill has had with the LGBT community lately the frequent use of gay humor seems misplaced, and certainly isn't edgy. More than just Hill, Tatum, and Cube get in on the fun. The supporting cast never lets us down, and we may be looking at a Rebel Wilson-style breakout from Workaholics star Jillian Bell as Maya's grumpy roommate.
You'll want to stick around throughout the awesome credits teasing an increasingly ridiculous string of sequels (2121 Jump Street? It's a thing.) that you'll really want to see happen. Whether Jenko and Schmidt eventually head to 23 Jump Street (hey, it's right next door!) we'll find out soon enough, but for now 22 Jump Street is a sequel that lives up to an incredibly high standard.