“It’s hard to see anyone who enjoyed the first Jump Street a great deal be disappointed by this effort.”

by Steve Pulaski

I still find Hollywood’s approach to a 21 Jump Street film adaptation, and what looks to be a promising franchise at the moment, quite hilarious and quietly unique. Nobody would’ve paid to see a 21 Jump Street film that was loyal to the television series that gave Johnny Depp a blip on the movie-star radar. However, people would pay to see an extremely vulgar, raunchy comedy rendition of the series with two of the most popular male actors leading it, giving us a memorable and hilarious “bromance.” The fact that Hollywood recognized this and, in turn, gave us not one but two great films is something to relish.

With 22 Jump Street, Hollywood has probably made its most metrosexual film to date, and emphasized one of its most boisterous “bromances” in movie history. This is one of the few times where a sequel to a comedy has exactly matched the hilarity and the greatness of its predecessor, following in its footsteps, continuing to affirm and build off the relationships and humor that it brought to the table, and, at the same time, actively self-deprecate and belittle itself for actually following through with trying to do those things. 22 Jump Street is so surprised at itself for existing that it has the confidence to make fun of itself and its actors for going along with its inane setups and overblown set-pieces.

22 Jump Street
Directed by
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube
Release Date
13 June 2014
Steve’s Grade: B+

The film picks up right where its predecessor left off, with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reprising their roles as Greg Jenko and Morton Schmidt, respectively, two undercover police officers who previously infiltrated a drug ring in a local high school. However, that was when they worked at the police station at the address 21 Jump Street. Now, somebody bought back the church they were previously located in and are now relocated to 22 Jump Street, and instead of going undercover in high school, the two are going undercover at a local college to find the source of a drug called “WHYPHY” (pronounced like “WiFi” and short for “Work hard? Yes. Play hard? Yes”). “WHYPHY” is a vicious new street drug that claimed the life of a young college student at Metro City State. All the two have to work off is a picture of the student allegedly buying the drug off a tattooed man. Still being bossed around and dictated by their mean-spirited vulgarian boss (Ice Cube), Jenko and Schmidt also have to battle with the fact that they may be growing apart from each other, with Jenko bonding with a fellow football player, and Schmidt taking interest in a female art major.

In a less self-referential film, it would be too easy to criticize 22 Jump Street for trying to blatantly follow the quips and storylines of typical sequels where the lead characters fight, grow distant, before recognizing that they need each other in a haphazardly constructed way. But 22 Jump Street is incredibly self-referential, so much so that it’s hard to articulate why I found it more hilarious than a nuisance. In addition, references are thrown zealously and concern the film’s unexpectedly fantastic box office performance, as well as the writing trio of Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman to even go so far to quietly reference Tatum’s box office bomb “White House Down” and why his character and Schmidt are going undercover at a college rather than into the Secret Service.

A large part of this film’s success goes to the aforementioned writers, who recognized the inanity of this film from the start and don’t try to completely detour from what made the first film so good nor go about the sequel in any kind of a serious manner. In addition, the directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the same guys helped perfect The LEGO Movie, if you can believe it) return to help the film be an action-comedy that isn’t redundant. Action-comedies, from what I’ve seen, are so difficult to make work because usually one of the two genres is lacking in some way. Here, however, 22 Jump Street has enough physical and verbal gags to make the film a winning comedy and enough insane action to keep one invested and exhilarated. And then there’s the inimitable chemistry of Tatum and Hill that make the film win from the very beginning.

Being the film is quite random and self-referential, there are several jokes that fall flat or simply don’t work. In particular, these are the jokes dealing with genitalia. Yet, Lord and Miller as directors, and Bacall, Uziel, and Rothman as writers, throw everything against the wall with this film, in terms of comedy, story-structure, and references, and to say that not everything works is rather expected. The film is like a stew with over a dozen ingredients; some alleviate and enhance the quality of the dish, while others may detract it, but as it stands, you want to take another bite, and another, and another, until you’re full.

It’s hard to see anyone who enjoyed the first Jump Street a great deal be disappointed by this effort. With that being said, I have no idea how a 23 Jump Street will be conducted. To say the crew of this film got lucky with how this project was conducted is an understatement. It seems that this kind of approach may only work once, which makes me seriously skeptical about a third film in the series will work. As far as I’m concerned, though, the crew on this film can do no wrong in a large sense, and what we have here could be one of the most surprising comedy franchise successes in decades.