Plot: After successfully reviving the 21 Jump Street program, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are sent to college to stop the distribution of a new drug that killed a student. When Jenko becomes a star on the football team, the duo’s investigation and “bromance” begins to fracture.
After seeing 22 Jump Street, I don’t think it’s blasphemous or hyperbolic to say this is the Lethal Weapon for a new generation. While this sequel doesn’t break new ground, and even makes constant references to the fact that it’s doing the same thing, the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill is so good, nobody cares. While the original film was more consistently funny, the highs in this version are so hilarious, I’d put the two films on equal footing. 22 Jump Street is pure joy from beginning to end.
It all starts with that chemistry between Hill and Tatum. Jonah Hill is an actor I did not care for early in his career. And yes, I’m the one guy who folds his arms at Superbad. It’s overrated. Yeah, I said it. I’ve never done such a 180 on an actor though. Not only did he prove he has dramatic chops in Moneyball, but he’s actually gotten progressively funnier in films like This is the End and The Wolf of Wall Street. Whereas most comedic actors like Jack Black and Will Ferrell wore out their welcomes pretty quickly, Hill has actually grown, honing his craft into something truly special. With this film in particular, Hill is simply on his A-game. His timing is beautiful, and much like the scene stealing Peter Pan sequence in the original, Hill does a slam poetry monologue that had me literally on the floor.
While we all know Hill is funny, whoever made the discovery that Channing Tatum had the potential to be a comedic gem should be our next President. Who the hell saw this?! Seriously, this guy is a comedic revelation. Tatum is so damn funny in this movie, I can’t even describe it in words. His facial expressions, his mannerisms, the way he stares drolly into the camera, it’s pure comedic brilliance. There’s one sequence where the two characters go meta, and talk into the camera as they describe all the college-isms they bring to their dorm. Tatum has this line about a college t-shirt he wears that is so flawlessly delivered, I almost cried at how well-timed it was. Comedy like that is rare to hit, but Channing Tatum (yes, Channing Tatum) nails it. Maybe it’s by accident, maybe he doesn’t even realize what he’s doing, I don’t really care. This guy is absolutely hysterical.
When I talk about bringing the best out of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give credit to the directors, Christopher Miller and Phil Lord. For those of you living under a film bubble the last couple years, Miller and Lord have not only brought us both 21 Jump Street films, but such animated greats as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (they didn’t do the sequel), and The LEGO Movie, one of the best animated films of the last five years. These guys are without question the best names in comedy right now. When they were rumored for Ghostbusters 3 a few months ago, it was the first time I cared about Ghostbusters 3 in like ten years. This is like what the Farrelly Brothers were like early in their career – they are that good.
When you look at the original film, a movie about 21 Jump Street had no business being good, but these guys made it work. The biggest fear with this sequel was Hangover 2 syndrome. Make no mistake, they blatantly repeat the first film, but what makes it so brilliant is they beat you to the punch line. Nick Offerman returns as the police chief, and flat out tells you this film will be exactly like the first one. It’s fantastic. There are a few surprises though that come in at just the right time, and makes the whole experience that much sweeter, including some neat directing tricks with split screen. I can’t wait to see what Miller and Lord do next.
As I mentioned before, the first film was a bit more consistent. The first half is really good, but I wasn’t loving it like I thought I would. There comes a point in the middle though where they throw in a twist involving Ice Cube’s character that elevated the movie from good to great. Holy crap, was this funny. Ice Cube is actually given a larger role, and boy was it worth it. Ice Cube has one scene in particular at a restaurant that had me crying This twist also creates one of the best Channing Tatum sequences. I always love a movie more when it gets progressively better, as opposed to losing steam.
As funny as Ice Cube and Nick Offerman were, the movie does lack in good supporting characters. Rob Riggle and Dave Franco make hilarious cameo appearances, and one of the college students played by Jillian Bell is pretty funny, but that’s about it. One of the villains was pretty weak, and Tatum’s character makes friends with a couple football players who were a complete waste of time. There were also these guys across the hall from Jenko and Schmidt called the Yang twins, played by The Lucas Brothers. Okay, are these guys some niche Comedy Central/Cartoon Network thing that six people know about? They had a couple nice moments, but I didn’t find them very funny. I don’t get it. It’s all good though, because Hill, Tatum, and Ice Cube brought all the funny you could ever need for this movie.
I’m always appreciative when a great comedy comes along, because they are so rare these days. I even see moviegoers settling for mediocre ones, as comedy has been such horseshit the last ten years. Neighbors is a great comedy? Come on, guys. 22 Jump Street isn’t perfect, and definitely has some misses, including a lackluster therapy scene, but the chemistry between Tatum and Hill is undeniable, and you legitimately buy into their friendship. I also love that they didn’t go overboard with the college “PAAAARTYYYY DUUUUDE, DRIIIIIIINKING” atmosphere that so many other college movies do. They keep it about the characters. If for anything else, this movie has one of the greatest credit sequences of all time, and without spoiling too much, I hope it all happens. I have a feeling this franchise will be around for a little while longer, but only if Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, and of course, Christopher Miller & Phil Lord are at the helm.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.