Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
“You two sons of bitches are going to college.”
Those were the words that ended 2012’s 21 Jump Street reboot (or was it loosely in continuity with the original series? I was never sure if the in-jokes and allusions were meant to be taken seriously or not!) and that’s exactly where we find Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko in this blockbuster comedy sequel.
22 Jump Street is a movie that manages to offer entertaining moments but that unfortunately suffers from repeating the same formula as the first film. The setting may move Schmidt and Jenko from high school to college, but the plot is largely identical to that of their last outing. To be fair, the filmmakers don’t shy away from this as we’re given plenty of tongue-in-cheek gags that reference the fact, but no amount of self-awareness can make the proceedings seem any less repetitive.
The story also feels a lot more drawn out than it needs to be. Its opening and closing acts are strong enough, but it lags considerably in the middle. This is particularly true of the subplot involving the friendship between Jenko and college football jock, Zook. Their relationship is often more monotonous than amusing. It also serves to create friction between the leads that is both cliché and predictable.
All of this is not to say that I found 22 Jump Street to be a complete loss, it does manage to squeeze in some redeeming elements. For example, much more interesting than the friendship between Jenko and Zook is the relationship between Schmidt and new love interest, Maya. It actually brings a surprising amount of emotional depth with it, but it also has a few twists and turns that set up some of the most genuinely hilarious scenes of the movie.
And while it took longer than it should have to get there, 22 Jump Street does have a fairly strong final act in terms of action. Schmidt and Jenko find themselves involved in car chases, foot pursuits and fist fights while thousands of America’s college students are partying around them for spring break. The humour may have been a little flat but judging the movie’s climax purely on its set pieces, it succeeds well enough.
Another saving grace comes from admirable performances by the lead actors. There is no denying that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum enjoy good on screen chemistry together. While each is given their own subplot – Tatum’s involving sports, Hill’s involving romance – they’re at their best when they’re on screen together. Although there is a definite rehash of the friction between them from 21 Jump Street in the middle that is exhaustive.
Each of them brings a different strength to the plot here. Jenko is the brawny buffoon who means well; Schmidt is the every man underdog who just wants to succeed at life. It is their unique traits that make them likable. However, I think the movie as a whole would have been much stronger if the filmmakers had spent more time focusing on how their differences can complement each other rather than on how they can come between them. Their best and funniest moments are when they’re working together.
It’s Ice Cube who manages to steal the show though. His Captain Dickson is the funniest character in the movie by a long shot. Almost every scene he is in is laugh out loud funny. A new dynamic is also added between Dickson and Schmidt that actually ends up being the comedic highlight of the movie.
Another supporting character from 21 Jump Street who makes a reappearance and succeeds in drawing more laughs than some of the movie’s biggest jokes is Dave Franco’s Eric Molson. Between his small role here and that in Bad Neighbours, the younger of the two acting Franco siblings is doing well in making people chuckle this summer.
Ironically enough, a tongue-in-cheek end credits montage that parodies where the franchise might go next actually ends up being funnier than almost the entire movie that precedes it. It also features a few familiar faces that add to the laughs, so make sure you stick around for that at the end.
Overall, 22 Jump Street just about manages to feature a higher percentage of material that is more entertaining than monotonous and tiresome. But there is simply too much of a repetition of 21 Jump Street’s plot. While there’s no shortage of in-jokes and knowing references to inform us that the writers aren’t ignorant of the fact, more often than not it feels like they’re trying to use self-awareness to disguise rehash.
22 Jump Street has all of the ingredients necessary to make a great action/comedy movie. Unfortunately though, they aren’t mixed together well enough to elevate it above being a mediocre example of either genre.
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