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Review: Self-awareness keeps the bromance and laughs rolling in ‘22 Jump Street’

22 Jump Street

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When 21 Jump Street debuted in 2012 and was not only not a complete train wreck, but in fact, quite funny it came as a surprise to well, basically everyone. That film was unexpectedly self-aware and laced with tongue-in-cheek humor, there were still the traditional bromance and action comedy gags, but it worked, thanks in no small part to the chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. While promoting the sequel, 22 Jump Street, (in theaters June 13), both stars have acknowledged the inherent challenge in making a sequel that would live up to the original, given the overwhelming sense sequels tend not to be as good as the original. Something that Nick Offerman's Deputy Chief Hardy notes in the opening moments of 22 Jump Street's trailer stating, "Ladies, nobody gave a sh*t about the Jump Street reboot, but you got lucky. So now this department has invested a lot of money to make sure Jump Street keeps going." It should come as no surprise, then, that 22 Jump Street significantly amps up the self-awareness and self-deprecation, and just about everything else, in order to do what sequels must do: make everything bigger.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star in '22 Jump Street'
Glen Wilson / © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

As viewers will recall from the end of 21 Jump Street, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) have been sent off to handle investigations in college, but those who don’t need not fret, the film begins with a clever little “previously on” montage that sets the tone for the irreverence that follows (as if we would expect anything else). The film also boasts a host of cameos and easter eggs for devoted fans. Throughout the course of the movie great pains are taken to remind us that what’s playing out is “exactly like last time.”

This sardonic wit carries the film, and though it doesn’t quite have the snap of its predecessor. because we anticipate it this time, it’s still plenty effective where laughs are concerned. While it’s always nice to see films elevated above their genre, let’s be honest here, 22 Jump Street wasn’t made with the aim of being a prestige film, and we’re not going to see it to be awed by the art on display, we’re going because we want to laugh. It follows then that the main measure of 22 Jump Street’s success or failure is its ability to entertain and insight laughter, and everything else is just a bonus.

Thanks to the healthy dose of self-deprecation and over the top silliness that the film’s conceit allows for, Hill and Tatum are free to run rampant, returning to the chaotic energy and comedy that highlighted 21 Jump Street. From seeing an octopus attack Hill’s face to watching our duo attempt to evade some baddies in a helmet-mobile, the antics of the film rarely fail to amuse. This sequel also enjoys a boost from a side plot that puts Hill’s Schmidt very much at odds with Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson, who is at his comedic best when his rage runneth over.

22 Jump Street is, as we are so often told, exactly the same as the first time, and yet, the back and forth between Hill and Tatum and the new mix of jokes blended with their old tricks manages not to feel stale. 22 Jump Street is a movie that is made for the summer, it’s light, easy entertainment that gives us exactly what we expect.

Note: The early end credits are a riot, but fans who stick around through the complete credits will find a bit of extra footage waiting for them.