It’s difficult to tell which of these two items is more surprising: the fact that “21 Jump Street” was a box office and critical success or the fact that its sequel, “22 Jump Street”, is every bit as worthy of those same successes.
“22 Jump Street” is perhaps the first movie to embrace its own insanity and become fully self-aware. When Deputy Chief Hardy (another brilliant Nick Offerman cameo) sends Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) back to the undercover division, he does so with brilliantly funny metaphors that also explain the reasoning for creating the movie.
Essentially, Nick Offerman delivers the most meta-filled monologue in film history.
Since Schmidt and Jenko look far too old to go back to high school, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) sends them off to college to track down the dealer of a dangerous new synthetic drug called “WHYPHY”.
And yes, watching Tatum’s Jenko attempt to decipher how to say that word is as funny as it sounds.
Once there, the tables are turned as Schmidt quickly becomes the nerdy outcast, hanging out with a quiet art student Maya (Amber Stevens) and sipping wine while looking at sculptures. Meanwhile, Jenko is in full dude bro form, doing keg stands with his new fraternity and football buddy Zook (Wyatt Russell), all with scantily clad women fawning over him.
“22 Jump Street” doesn’t even try to hide the fact that this is the exact same story as its predecessor. Every character stresses that “it’s the same exact thing”, which is fully ignored by Schmidt and Jenko as they strive to become the most inept, yet successful policemen since Inspector Clouseau.
When the self-referencing jokes stop, the homoerotic ones begin. Since Schmidt and Jenko are partners, it makes for a non-stop barrage of “partner” related humor. These can be looked at as hilarious or the laziest and easiest series of jokes ever. Either way, it’s a riot.
This movie cements directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as truly skilled and highly competent filmmakers. In addition to these two deliciously filthy and raunchy movies, they have directed “The Lego Movie” and the two “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” films. Those films are all highly technical and gorgeous to behold, but “22 Jump Street” may be their finest looking movie yet.
Lord and Miller have made a Michael Bay-style action movie and none of it is done in jest. Every action scene is done just as if this was one of the horrible Tatum-starring “G.I. Joe” movies and never in parody. It actually legitimizes the movie and makes it way more fun than it already is. They make a car chase in which Jenko and Schmidt are piloting a golf cart covered by a football helmet exciting and laughable all at once.
Since the plot is paper thin (but not stupid), the actors are counted on to propel the movie forward and they do not disappoint. Every single role is perfectly cast and the cameos (which will not be mentioned here) are quite clever.
Jillian Bell plays Maya’s roommate who does nothing but mock Schmidt’s age and appearance. The Lucas Brothers are two stoners that live across the hall from Schmidt and Jenko and watching them finish each other’s sentences is silly and an extremely easy joke, but funny nonetheless.
Peter Stormare plays The Ghost, a drug dealer villain and, well, he’s Peter Stormare. That guy wakes up and is a brilliant villain in any genre.
But then, there is the real scene stealer in “22 Jump Street”. Ice Cube is in this movie more than the first and he dominates the screen. His snarl alone elicits chuckles, but his brutal insults of Schmidt and Jenko are direct hits to the funny bone. There is a plot twist that is so smartly funny that it had an entire theater of human beings literally falling out of their seats. It is completely unexpected and watching Ice Cube act it all out could potentially be the funniest thing you’ll see in a theater in 2014.
After a couple of Academy Award nominations, it would be easy for Jonah Hill to ditch sophomoric humor. Nope. He mocks his weight, his looks, and shows absolutely no fear while doing it. He’s more of the straight man this time around, but he still has plenty of moments that show off his comedic skills.
Look, he puts a grenade in his swim trunks just because he says “it feels right”. A Best Supporting Actor nomination will not be in the cards for this one, just nonstop cringe-inducing awkward laughter.
Channing Tatum is brilliant. More than brilliant. As many, many female admirers will attest, he’s perfect. This is another eye-opening, genius performance from Tatum, who seemingly can do no wrong. His timing is impeccable. He seems to know the exact amount of time to pause or stutter that will then produce the highest amount of laughter.
Mark this down: Tatum will receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical. It will be the safest bet you can make. That is how great he is in “22 Jump Street”.
Hill and Tatum should become the next Abbott and Costello. Their chemistry makes “22 Jump Street”, like “21 Jump Street”, way, way better than it actually deserves to be. This movie is going to make a boatload of money and will no doubt force another sequel on the world. If this one is any indication, it will be just as hysterical as the first two.
Also, be sure to stick around for the credits and you may get an idea what “23 Jump Street” will be about.