’22 Jump Street’ is the same movie as ’21 Jump Street’. This isn’t intended as criticism. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller know it’s a sequel; after all, they made the first one, which was a needless remake. And so, you know this one is a needless sequel. They know you know it’s a needless sequel. This may seem like simple stuff, but it’s actually why the movie contains moments of comic brilliance.
There are a lot of two-things-going-on-simultaneously on the part of the filmmakers: making fun of sequels whilst doing a cop story, establishing two characters as a gay couple even though they’re not really a gay couple; “Nobody cares about the Jump Street reboot,” a character says in a deadpan way while simultaneously winking at the camera – there are a lot of parallel tracks and multiple meanings to lines here, and it is non-stop funny. Aside from a two-minute segment which transitions the first act into the second act, the pacing is spot on. The operative joke initially is that ’22 Jump Street’ is exactly like the last movie. But I think it’s even better.
Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) have to pose as college students rather than high school kids in an effort to (pardon the pun) weed out the dealers of a new drug called WhyPhy (pronounced “Wi-Fi”). The masquerade doesn’t fool anyone. “I’m 19,” insists the 31-ish year-old Schdmit. Yeah, right. The plot is hardly of concern.
Jenko didn’t exactly fit into high school; it was more Schmidt’s place to shine; college, however, was tailor-made for him. In no time, he manages to become the football team’s star receiver and attends parties with the football player fraternity members. Apparently, all this socializing is for the sake of the investigation, but it affects the relationship between him and Schmidt, because the jocks don’t take as kindly to him. This movie reverses the dynamic of its predecessor about who is popular and who isn’t.
The way ’22 Jump Street’ explores this fractured relationship, as well as the newly developing friendship between Jenko and the quarterback/frat president Zook (Wyatt Russell) isn’t just insightful, it is delicately handled. For several sequences, these characters play it, oh, pardon me, straight, even if the male bonding seems to have entered questionable territory. Jenko is essentially torn between two lovers, and the movie even goes as far as having its two main characters do some relationship workshopping over couple’s therapy.
But, ’22 Jump Street’ is kind and respectful to its characters and to the emotions involved within this complicated bromance. This movie takes the bromance idea as far as it can possibly go without any actual physicality. It can be seen as a statement of championing male friendships and acknowledging that the most devoted of male friendships can spill over into being perceived as a gay couple even if when it is entirely hetero. This was a surprise to me; while I gave ’21 Jump Street’ a positive review, I did have reservations with the mean-spiritedness of its homophobic slurs.
‘The Lego Movie’ which was extremely well received by critics and audience members earlier this year was also directed by Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller (no one hones in our modern need for irony like these two filmmakers). This was a movie that was equally self-aware and toyed with the way we view toys and the way toys view each other in movies and concluded on a high emotional note that made us feel like we learned something incredibly valuable during playtime. ‘Everything is Awesome’ is, yes, an awesome track by Tegan and Sara, but also serves as a commentary on the suffocating insipidity ingraining pop-culture. This speaks to my previous point about the filmmaking duo operating on multiple levels.
Furthermore, like ‘The Lego Movie’, ’22 Jump Street’ is the sort of movie I will be checking out a second time. I have a policy to limit repeat viewings to exceptional fare, but the truth is, a second viewing is pretty much mandatory in order to catch all the clever lines delivered in rapid-fire succession that were missed because I was laughing uncontrollably to the point where I thought I needed to be excused. Most sequels are made simply to capitalize on the success of a brand name established by the first film; the formula is often repeated because filmmakers and the studio believe in giving more of what audience members were receptive to the first time around. More isn’t always right, but in the case of ’22 Jump Street’, it is. Rarely are sequels as self-aware as this one; it hones in on just how unoriginal sequels are (and by definition, they are). Credit screenwriters Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman for concocting seemingly lazy script – one that, on the surface, doesn’t appear to be taking any risks; and yet, the results make it feel daring and effortlessly so.
’22 Jump Street’ occupies the same space that Edgar Wright’s ‘Cornetto’ trilogy does. Edgar Wright is really good at spoofing a certain genre whilst crafting a very effective movie of that very genre – i.e. giving us the entertainment we desire whilst we acknowledge our distrust of it. ‘Hot Fuzz’ is probably the best example of this – it spoofs all of the tropes of over-the-top action cop movies and is still a good over-the-top action cop movie. Consider ’22 Jump Street’ to be the American version of that.
Also, stay for the end credits, which contains a sequence imagining where things might go from here; a miniature sequel about sequels masterpiece in its own right.
I’m not giving the movie my full four stars, but if you’re judging a movie based on the target it is aiming for it, this film hits it square on. I don’t think stupid has ever seemed this smart at the movies. Is ’22 Jump Street’ merely a great bromance or the greatest bromance ever in the history of the cinema? You decide. I know where I stand on this. QED.