[NSFW RED BAND TRAILER]
With Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Peter Stormare, Amber Stevens. Written by Michael Bacall and Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman. Directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller. Rated R for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence. 112 minutes.
Most sequels are a waste of time because all they’re doing is making a bigger, louder, more expensive version of the first film. Occasionally, however, it pays off. The reason it pays off in 22 JUMP STREET–the sequel to the 2012 action comedy “21 Jump Street”–is that the people involved know exactly what the problem is with such movies and they know that you do too. Playing with and goofing on the expectations of such films is part of what makes this a hilariously welcome entry to the summer movie season.
The original, loosely based on the 1980s television series, was about two police officers who went undercover at a high school to ferret out the people behind a flood of illegal drugs. Part of the fun was that the former jock, Jenko (Channing Tatum), had a lot of trouble fitting in while the former nerd, Schmidt (Jonah Hill), became popular. This time they are after an international smuggler known as the Ghost (Peter Stormare), with whom they have a disastrous run-in with at the start of the film.
So their boss, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), decides to send them back to school… only this time it’s to a local college where a student has died in an incident involving a drug cocktail dubbed WHYFHY. According to Dickson, they are to do exactly what they did last time. It doesn’t quite work out like that, but the fact that the characters seem to be aware that they’re in a sequel is a cue to the audience not to take anything too seriously. It begins with the film’s title which, in the original, was based on the address of the police headquarters.
At school, Jenko makes the football team and is pledged to a fraternity, bonding with Zook (Wyatt Russell), who is one of their suspects. Zook and Jenko are so on the same wavelength that Schmidt starts becoming jealous. Could this be the end of the partnership? Meanwhile, Schmidt falls in with an arty crowd that prefers sipping fine wine to guzzling beer, and connects with Maya (Amber Stevens) with hilarious results. Maya’s obnoxious roommate, Mercedes (Jillian Bell), has a tie to the dead student and is also loud and insulting about the fact that Hill (30 years old in real life) clearly does not look like a typical undergraduate.
There’s enough action to keep the film lively including several chases and Jenko’s ability to jump and leap, as Schmidt puts it, like Spider-Man. There are also several amusing cameos, and a hilarious closing credit sequence that may be the ultimate word on cheesy sequels. (There’s also a gag after the full credits so you may want to stick around.) Tatum and Hill have an unusual comic chemistry that works once again, and Ice Cube (who turns 45 on Sunday) proves once again that he can not only ably handle “older” comic roles, but manages to brings down the house when he finally gives his anger full vent.
“22 Jump Street” is raucous, goofy fun that doesn’t assume the people who are watching are idiots. See it before your friends spoil all the jokes.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.