22 Jump Street Is an Amazing, Meta Sequel

Police officers Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) have graduated from the 21 Jump Street program that sent them back to high school into the new 22 Jump Street program, where they’ll be sent to college at MC State to investigate a synthetic drug called whyphy (which stands for “Work Hard Yes, Party Hard Yes”). As they get deeper into their undercover identities, Jenko joins the football team with new best friend Zook (Wyatt Russell) while Schmidt hooks up with art major Maya (Amber Stevens), who he later learns is Captain Dickson (Ice Cube)’s daughter. As Jenko and Schmidt drift apart, they realize just how different they are, which causes problems in both their friendship and work relationship.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but 22 Jump Street might be better than 21 Jump Street. It’s easily the best sequel I’ve seen (so far). And that’s because it’s a sequel that knows it’s a sequel and therefore makes fun of the fact that it’s a sequel (kind of like Muppets: Most Wanted).

To show you just how “meta” this movie goes with its humor,  let’s break down some of the jokes. First of all, there was Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman)’s self-aware monologue, where he mentions that the guys “got lucky” with the first Jump Street program, so now they’re throwing more money at the program to make sure “it keeps going.” And when Jenko asks if they’re doing something new, Hardy says, “Do the same thing as last time, and everybody will be happy.”

There’s also Dickson mentioning that he got a raise to babysit the guys again (*cough*). Oh, yeah, and Schmidt notes that Dickson’s new office looks like a giant cube of ice (*cough cough*). When they ask if they’re going back to high school, Dickson makes fun of how old they look (a joke that keeps coming up whenever they encounter college students, by the way) and tells them they’re going to college this time. I personally loved this joke because, seriously, how many movies have you seen where the actors look WAY too old to be playing students?

Or how about when Jenko meets Zook and drops his Q-tip in Zook’s meat sandwich, during which they both awkwardly joke about it being a meet-cute? Or when Jenko suspects a football player to be the tattooed whyphy dealer, but then the football player reveals a red fish tattoo, saying it’s his high-school mascot, the Red Herring. Or (my personal favorite) the chase scene where Jenko and Schmidt drive in front of the Benjamin Hill College of Film Studies?

THIS is how you write comedy. Even though 22 Jump Street used the first film’s plot formula, it furthered its comedy by using clever jokes and admitting that it was basically the same film. In doing so, the writers showed us their commitment to crafting a solid sequel that didn’t just rest on its laurels (Ahem, The Hangover 2). If this is how this franchise is going to go, I’m perfectly fine with there being multiple movies. Because cleverness is always better than a beaten horse.

Speaking of cleverness, there’s also a theme about relationships. One of the first scenes shows Jenko and Schmidt watching a college lecture about Yin-Yang—that is, the Chinese philosophy of opposite yet complementary forces in nature. If you’re not following, the passive, sensitive Schmidt is the yin to Jenko’s active, assertive yang. They’re different, but they work well together, basically.

This relationship theme is emphasized even more when Jenko and Schmidt learn their across-the-hall dorm friends are twins (played by The Lucas Brothers) who do everything together, including get in long “jinx” conversations after saying the same thing. Or when Jenko finds his bro-equal in football friend Zook, who’s exactly like him. It’s not only good commentary about relationships, but it also helps develop Tatum and Hill’s chemistry and characters throughout the film.

To be honest, I don’t really have any complaints about this movie. I could say something about how the women in this movie (Amber Stevens’s Maya or Jillian Bell’s Mercedes, in particular) were no more than props for jokes, but I surprisingly don’t care—and I can’t tell if the movie is just that funny, or if I’m getting tired of ranting about the sexist shithole that is Hollywood. Both, maybe?

One last note. Dustin Rowles at Pajiba pointed out the awkwardly-timed jokes about Tracy Morgan, Maya Angelou, and homophobic slurs in 22 Jump Street. Given recent events, this was kind of creepy.

Overall, 22 Jump Street is easily one of the best movies of the summer. It’s a self-aware comedy that uses clever double entendres to poke fun of the fact that it directly copies the plot of its hilarious predecessor. And, hey, the movie even lays out the groundwork for sequels 23-40 in the end credits just to show you how dedicated it is to mocking “the sequel.” Because of this, I can honestly say it’s the best comedy sequel I’ve seen. Not to mention, the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill just seems to get better with time.

22 Jump Street: A+

For my radio review of 22 Jump Street on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 33:55 mark).

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