by Bob Garver
June 16, 2014. I only laughed a little at “21 Jump Street” two years ago. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as a pair of bumbling cops undercover at a high school; it was just that for me a lot of the jokes fell flat. There were certainly some exceptions (I still like to pull up the online video of Tatum botching a science formula), but I couldn’t get into the movie overall. “22 Jump Street” has a lot more jokes that land, many of them in a style that I didn’t like last time.
Officers Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are doing badly as big-boy cops, so they’re sent back to the Jump Street undercover program. Since they’re too old to pass for high schoolers anymore (as if they ever could), they’re sent to college to bust another drug ring. Their wacky adventures include frat parties, car chases, poetry slams, Spring Break, forbidden love and tension in their own relationship. It’s about what you’d expect plot-wise from a move that combines college, cops and comedy.
So what makes this film stronger than its predecessor? For starters, there are a lot more memorable performances in the supporting cast. You can tell from the advertising alone that Jillian Bell is going to be impactful as the disapproving roommate of Schmidt’s girlfriend (Amber Stevens, herself not very impactful). Audiences will be instantly drawn to Keith and Kenny Lucas as a pair of mellow twins who have a chemistry that Schmidt and Jenko feebly try to duplicate. Rob Riggle returns in a cameo where he is allowed to be much funnier than he was in the first movie, where he basically played it straight until his final moments. And Ice Cube will be back as the duo’s hostile captain. He nails the role, though in fairness he nailed it in the first movie as well.
The film has a lot of scenes that had me pounding my armrest in relight. These include the aforementioned Riggle cameo and any scene involving Ice Cube. Schmidt engages in an unfortunate college tradition usually reserved for females. Schmidt and Jenko find themselves in a therapy session with a misunderstanding psychologist. The inevitable showdown between Schmidt and the film’s villain is sure to be nominated for Best Fight at the next MTV Movie Awards. But my absolute favorite gag is the world’s most awkward Parent’s Day, followed closely by Jenko’s reaction to the bombshell dropped at the event.
There’s even a punch-up to the reflexive gags that I loathed so much in the first movie. At the time, I constantly found myself thinking, “We get it. Movie versions of old TV shows are usually lame. You know what else is lame. Your jokes about how lame they are.” A few of the tongue-in-cheek jokes in this movie are indeed painful (and I wish it wouldn’t take a cheap shot at Tatum’s role in White House Down, that movie was a lot of fun), but in general I think they work a lot better. The best gags have to do with the future of the franchise, including a surprisingly lengthy sequence that plays over the film credits.
To be sure, “22 Jump Street” is not what you’d call a smart movie. Perhaps it goes to the wells of Schmidt’s awkwardness, Jenko’s stupidity and homoeroticism a bit too often. But then again there are a lot of jokes that do work; more than there were in “21 Jump Street.” Also, the film never takes itself too seriously, unlike its predecessor, which devolved into a pretty straight action flick toward the end. If you’re a fan of dumb, raunchy comedies, “22 Jump Street” will probably make your summer.
Three stars out of five.