Movie review: 22 Jump Street is a sequel about sequels

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Self-referential sequel-itus in 22 Jump Street - GLEN WILSON
  • Glen Wilson
  • Self-referential sequel-itus in 22 Jump Street
22 Jump Street
★★★
Now playing


Whereas 21 Jump Street (the 2012 film, not the 1987 TV series it was based on) was a remake about remakes, 22 Jump Street is a sequel about sequels. It starts with a cheeky “Previously on ...” lead-in and ends with closing-credits clips that tease a menagerie of faux follow-ups to come.

Indeed, an early monologue from Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) that ostensibly assigns screw-up cops Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) back to the Jump Street beat forecasts the film’s form and function. Surprised by the success of the revived Jump Street program, in which Schmidt and Jenko posed as high school students to investigate a campus drug ring that already killed one student, higher-ups (see also: producers) have thrown money at the project to keep it going.

The partners’ not-so-new assignment? Pose as college students to investigate a campus drug ring that has already killed one student. “Infiltrate the dealers, find the supplier,” snarls still-cantankerous Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) … again.

The differences between the films are purposefully minute: a change of address; a Vietnamese Jesus effigy replacing a Korean one. Otherwise, 22 Jump Street embraces its self-referential sameness with satirical gusto, with the rotund, neurotic Hill and hunky lunkhead Tatum channeling a profane, meta-modern Abbott and Costello.

Schmidt and Jenko again fall in and out of a bro-mance whose homoeroticism blossoms into full-blown parody. They wind up holding hands on a psychology professor’s couch after he misunderstands their use of the word “partners.” As opposed to their fish-out-of-water high school identities, Schmidt and Jenko gravitate back to their true (stereo)types at the fictional college Metro City State. After joining the football team, Jenko latches onto the flaxen-haired Zook (Wyatt Russell), his simpatico quarterback and party-hearty frat brother. Meanwhile, Schmidt is back to being the nerdy outcast, although that doesn’t prevent a one-night-stand with Maya (Amber Stevens), another beauty way out of his league.

It all culminates in another setting of teenage debauchery—instead of senior prom, this time it’s spring break in Mexico, where the sexual innuendo becomes as flaccid as the hunt for the real bad guys. No matter: 22 Jump Street subsists on the sneaky comic acumen of its stars, whether it’s Tatum’s blank stares, Hill’s loquacious overconfidence or Ice Cube destroying an entire luncheon buffet.

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who spent their time between Jump Streets making the equally meta The LEGO Movie) also remind us that comedy, in being able to cross the cultural correctness that shackles drama and other genres, is often the most accurate snapshot of society. But if you want to track social progress—well, I guess you’ll have to wait for the sequel.

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