22 Jump Street (2014) - Can't Stop the Movies
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22 Jump Street (2014)

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After successfully taking down a high school drug cartel from their headquarters on 21 Jump Street, Schmidt and Jenko are back and ready to tackle the biggest challenge of their careers - college.  Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller reunite with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in this sequel to 2012's comedy success.

Turn down for what22 Jump Street could have dug a bit deeper to avoid the children's anthem that's the philosophical basis of many sequels, "Second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder, and a little bit worse."  Though in the case of 22 Jump Street, the key word in that exchange is "little."  Those going into 22 Jump Street entertained by the earlier film will find the same spark of meta humor and physical comedy that made the first a surprise hit.  If you weren't already in the same wavelength, then you'd be better off spending your money elsewhere.

So I laughed a lot through 22 Jump Street, but in making a meta sequel to the already meta original they went a bridge too far in bloating the film up.  Some of it works, a lot of it doesn't, but none of it goes without a self-aware comment.  It's great when the film takes the time to poke at the absurd coincidences that these films need to have, like that the Jump Street crew has a new headquarters right across the street from their old, and is upgraded thanks to a bigger budget.  That' worth a smile, but throws in the additional detail of a Jesus statue that is more decked out in royal accessories than the Jesus in their old church headquarters, and gets a big laugh.

When directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are able to throw in that little extra gag that pushes the self-awareness over the edge, the film works beautifully.  I especially loved this confused-looking stoner that watches from the bottom of the frame when Schmidt is trying to figure out how to have a fight scene with a girl and excise the sexual tension.  But that same meta approach drags through the expanded number of chase scenes and the drawn out dramatic part of this comedy where Schmidt and Jenko go through the doubt and breakup of their partnership that the dialogue helpfully warns us is coming up.

Tatum and Hill find the perfect note of bickering partners, with the many meanings that word implies, in the sequel.

Tatum and Hill find the perfect note of bickering partners, with the many meanings that word implies, in the sequel.

This is both the most interesting part of the film and the one that drags the comedy down the most.  Lord and Miller are too smart to let their bromance devolve into homophobia, and instead pushes it to the logical conclusion that audiences have avoided all these years.  The film treats their close partnership with a surprising amount of respect, as they're just two guys who love each other and get jealous when they feel like they're splitting apart.  The way they work through their feelings isn't always funny, but it continues that run of surprising sweetness from the first film, and Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill have enough faith in their chemistry to push their bickering partnership to the limit.

What's left is the same stuff that worked before.  The chemistry between the two is still superb, Tatum continues to mix absolute sincerity and physical comedy in a shambling labrador of a lead.  When Lord and Miller are able to work their cartoon chops into the screen, like a rehash of their drug trip from the first film that veers a bit more hallucinatory, Tatum is free to let loose in a delightfully trippy playground.  Hill doesn't get as many of the big laughs this time around but his subplot allows more room for Ice Cube into the film.  His mean mugging didn't always work in the first film but this time, with a target, he lets loose with some explosive physical comedy of his own, never far from that tiny cup of espresso.

The first film makes up for the lack of Ice Cube by giving him a hilarious sub-plot to bounce of of Hill.

The sequel makes up for the lack of Ice Cube in the first by giving him a hilarious sub-plot to bounce off Hill.

With those same strengths come repeated weaknesses, and once again wasting the supporting cast is a big shame.  22 Jump Street made some course corrections by giving Ice Cube more to do, but look at who was wrangled into the film and had barely any jokes.  Patton Oswalt and Queen Latifah both have little impact in their cameos, but in the world would you hire H. Jon Benjamin, he of the hilarious vocal performances from Archer and Bob's Burgers, as a coach and not give him a stretch of dialogue to work with?  Then there's poor Peter Stormare, who has about as much lines in his entire screen time as the cameo from the unfunny Rob Riggle.  I liked seeing these folks, but it was a big collection of missed opportunities.

Now, about that ending.  Eventually it will be uploaded to Youtube or some other video streaming site and you'll know the same thing that we opening weekend viewers do - that it's one of the funniest bits of comedy we'll see all year.  It skewers the idea of a sequel by pushing Schmidt and Jenko through increasingly absurd scenarios in over a dozen rapid-fire vignettes.  It's brilliant comedy, but also had me leaving the theater with two side-effects.  The first is that the sequence was so funny I had to take a few moments to remember the rest of the film and found it lacking.  The second is a question that immediately followed that lack - why couldn't the rest of the film be that daring?

I don't want to give the impression that 22 Jump Street is anything less than a fun experience, there's just a lot of padding in between those belly laughs.  But like most sequels it still suffers from the weight of bloat and expectation of needing to surpass what came before.  Maybe if it had spent less time being smart and more time brewing up some laughs I might be able to recommend it beyond the fans of the original.  Catch it if you liked the first - everyone else can just wait a few months for the inevitable Youtube upload.

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Tail - 22 Jump Street22 Jump Street (2014)

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
Screenplay written by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman.
Starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. hmmm i may rent this, though i didn’t care for the first one

    • Thanks for the comment, and that’s the best way to go. I enjoyed it, but it’s not one of those sequels that goes beyond what made the first appealing, so a home view is for the best.

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