'22 Jump Street'
The ’21 Jump Street’ movie shouldn’t have worked, but then the filmmakers actually made that the main joke. The same is somehow true of ’22 Jump Street’. On paper, it’s a terrible idea for a movie. Thankfully, the filmmakers know that fact well enough to run with it and mercilessly mock the very idea of sequels and the people who make them.
’22 Jump Street’ opens with a big dumb action scene that’s fairly low on laughs and worryingly suggests that the sequel will be a lazy victory lap for all concerned. Then Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum sit down with Nick Offerman to discuss how dumb it is to follow up a success with a retread that’s the same only more expensive and less interesting. At this point, it’s clear that entire opening was merely the set-up for a meta punchline from co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Those ‘Lego Movie’ maestros specialize in turning bad Hollywood ideas into brilliant blockbusters, so it only makes sense that they’d know exactly what to do with a movie called ’22 Jump Street’. This is a sequel made by people who know why they shouldn’t have made the movie and turn that into the joke. The flick may drag at times and doesn’t feel as neatly conceived as the last go-around, but thanks to the self-mocking style, those faults end up feeling like part of the style, even when they clearly weren’t intended.
As promised by the finale of ’21 Jump Street’, this sequel tosses Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum’s mismatched buddy duo into an undercover operation in college. It’s a lazy concept, but knowingly so from the first frame to the last. The sequel has an endless stream of jokes about how the two stars look way too old to play college students and how everyone is just shamelessly rehashing the plot from the last movie. It sounds glib and the type of thing that would be amusing only to the filmmakers but alienating to viewers. And yet, somehow that’s not the case. Lord and Miller might enjoy shoving their tongues in their cheeks, but only at the expense of themselves and never the audience. Their film is about as funny as the last one (if not quite as inspired), and really that’s all audiences could possibly ask for.
Of course, at the center of everything are Hill and Tatum. Their conflicting physical appearances and acting styles made them an ideal buddy duo from Day One. The fact that the major quality they both share is a healthy sense of self-mockery is the engine that made the original movie run, and that’s still the case here. The characters continue their bromance through a self-conscious college growing-apart period, with Tatum becoming a popular jock and Hill becoming a self-loathing loner freshman. It all works and they still get plenty of laughs out of their characters, but ’22 Jump Street’ belongs more to the directors than the stars. Everything Hill and Tatum do could have sold a lesser and more obvious sequel. The way Lord and Miller shove it all into a catch-all sequel parody recaptures the magic of the original movie in wonderfully unexpected ways.
The entire movie builds towards an absolutely brilliant end credit montage that’s simply too good to spoil here. It’s such a great idea and so perfectly executed that everyone involved has to end the franchise right here just to protect the integrity of that final joke. Could this team make a ’23 Jump Street’ that’s worth seeing? After this hysterical sequel, there’s no doubt in my mind that they could pull it off. However, they just shouldn’t. They came up with a hilarious way to cap off the series by pissing in their own faces and Hollywood franchise mentality so perfectly that the only option now is to drop the mic, accept the applause, and walk away.