‘22 Jump Street’ a funny commentary on sequels

By Frank Ruggiero (frank@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Jun. 19 | Modified: Jun. 19
‘22 Jump Street’ a funny commentary on sequels

From left, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star in ‘22 Jump Street.’

“22 Jump Street” is everything Hollywood thinks a sequel should be — bigger, louder and more of the same.

Only this action-comedy is gleefully aware of it, making for a fun time at the movies for those who love movies.

2012’s “21 Jump Street” was ostensibly based on the 1980s cop drama of the same name, seemingly fated to follow suit with other cinematic reboots of that ilk, but instead, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“The Lego Movie”) turned the concept on its head.

Rather than a straight-up adaptation, complete with name checks, knowing winks and obligatory cameos from the TV cast, Lord and Miller decided to make a TV nostalgia movie about TV nostalgia movies.

The result was unexpected hilarity, sharply written, funny throughout and loved by critics and the box office. Following suit, their obligatory sequel is all about obligatory sequels, and, like its predecessor, the comedy knowingly dances around the fourth wall, without ever actually breaking it.

And not so coincidentally, it’s this same formula from the first — only in different trappings — that makes “22 Jump Street” work, as Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman, TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) conveniently explains, while reprimanding officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill, “Superbad”) and Jenko (Channing Tatum, “Magic Mike”), following a botched undercover drug bust.

The bust was a flop because they weren’t doing what they did before, Hardy explains. Since their first assignment was such an unlikely but profitable success, the police department not only reassigns them to their previous beat, but also increases their budget, hoping to capitalize off said success.

Our heroes are reassigned to the 21 Jump Street program, now located at 22 Jump Street, in which they must go undercover as college students to stop the proliferation of a new synthetic drug. While embracing college life and, perhaps, getting somewhat carried away, the duo follows the same formula from their first assignment, only to realize it’s not working this time around. Despite orders from their superiors, including Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube, “Friday”), Schmidt and Jenko again must take matters into their own hands — and deviate from the formula — if they’re to find the mysterious manufacturer before the drug hits spring break.

Along the way, Schmidt falls for a thoughtful art major (Amber Stevens, “The Amazing Spider-Man”), who’s not quite who he thinks she is, while Jenko makes a new best friend (Wyatt Russell, TV’s “The Walking Dead”), pledges a fraternity and makes the football team. Despite his newfound love interest, Schmidt grows jealous of Jenko, who, after realizing he’s perfectly at home in a college setting, considers leaving the force and actually enrolling.

In true sequel form, our heroes’ partnership is called into question. Needless to say, if they’re ever to catch their culprit, they must put their differences aside and, well, you know the rest.

The fun thing about this series is that even though you know the rest, it’s still an unabashedly fun and hilarious ride. The comedy’s not so much in the plot as it is in the characters, and the cast more than delivers.

Hill and Tatum actually manage to build on their winning chemistry, which was an unexpected highlight from the first film. And, thankfully, Ice Cube has an expanded role in this outing, while a handful of recurring characters make welcome and laugh-out-loud appearances throughout.

Despite the college antics and physical comedy, “22 Jump Street” is surprisingly smart, with many of its laughs coming on the sly, especially those surrounding film and sequels in particular. Miller and Lord obviously love movies, as do Hill and Michael Bacall, who developed the story.

Conversely, the film seems to work so well because of the very formula it’s lampooning. But it works. And even though more of the same is inevitable in a summer sequel, “22” is well aware of it, and that makes for a smooth, laugh-filled ride down Jump Street.

“22 Jump Street,” rated R for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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