22 Jump Street – Movie Review

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★★½

“Nobody cared about the Jump Street reboot,” Nick Offerman’s Chief Hardy says to Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum). Much like the final line in Inglourious Basterds, this line is spoken in direct reference to the movie itself more than the story. Everyone expected 21 Jump Street, the 2012 movie adaptation of the 1987 television series of the same name, to tank. Surprisingly, it didn’t. Thanks to the striking comedic chemistry between Hill and Tatum, a self aware script by Michael Bacall, and excellent direction by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the reboot served to be the best comedy of the year, in my opinion. So Hardy’s line is accurate. Nobody cared. But they do now. So much so that it was inevitable that if a sequel was to be made, audiences would see it. Thankfully, the same smart crew returns to poke fun at the sheer idiocy and pointlessness of certain movie sequels made only to generate money. And that’s what this would be in other hands. A sequel made to draw in money off it’s predecessor and stars. But Bacall, Lord, Miller, Tatum, and Hill all work together to make this a sequel that is actually pretty great. I loved 22 Jump Street.

The film opens up with a “Previously on” intro that hearkens back to and identifies itself with its television roots, and it works oh so well with the tone of the movie. This is a mockery movie, one made to simply poke fun at not only itself but the idea of movie sequels that have no reason for existing. It’s essentially its own commentary track, and it’s fantastically funny. And when I say fantastically funny, I mean funnier than its predecessor. I knew from the trailers what kind of movie this was going to be and I appreciated its self aware plot and writing structure, but from the trailer itself it didn’t look that funny. And that, my friends, is the great part. They saved all the good stuff for the movie! Sure, the trailer has a few spoilers which were unnecessary to spoil, but overall, I found myself laughing harder than I have at any movie this year, and as often as well, and that’s mostly due to the fact that the trailers didn’t spoil any of the good jokes. It felt so refreshing to laugh at genuinely funny material that I hadn’t already seen. If only other comedies would follow that same routine.

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But what is exactly funny about it, you may ask. Well, pretty much everything. Does it nail every single joke? No. No comedy really does. But this one comes close. Channing Tatum, to whom the male audience is now warming up to, is great as Jenko, the stereotypical dumb cop who needs the smarter partner to help him through situations that he himself receives credit for. Sometimes he’s a jerk, sometimes a sweetheart, but it’s always funny to watch, and Tatum kills it once again. What’s even better is his chemistry with Jonah Hill. The two play perfectly together on screen, much like Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys, another excellent buddy cop comedy. Their dialogue is uproariously funny thank to the script partly, but the way the two interact is nothing short of hilarious. Jonah Hill, coming off his second Oscar nomination for The Wolf of Wall Street, has some time to poke fun at his artsy dramatic work in the new college setting of this movie. He visits a slam poetry contest and has multiple conversations about art, and it reminded me a bit of James Franco’s image in This is the End where it practically made fun of his recent string of dramatic, award worthy material. The fact that these guys get nominated for Oscars one year and then make fun of that in a comedy the next just kills me. I love it. Ice Cube is sensationally funny here, as he was in the original, and he has one particular scene that was so funny people in my theater were howling with laughter. Watch out for that scene. It’ll hit you hard. Nick Offerman has fun in his “No cared about the Jump Street reboot” scene where he does all he can not to wink at the camera, and Wyatt Russell does a fine job as the college football team’s quarterback. Amber Stevens is quite good in a pretty important role, but it’s Jillian Bell is kind of a pitfall. Her performance wasn’t bad, but her character seemed annoying every time she came on screen through the first two acts. During the third act, though, I forgave it.

The writing by Michael Baccall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman can’t be praised more than it already has. Sure, there are times when the laughs don’t hit, but when they hit, which is pretty much consistently, they hit hard. It’s a script that can make normal moviegoers laugh, all while making film lovers appreciative of the in-jokes to genre cliches and the unnecessary demand for sequels. Going right along with that script and understanding it perfectly are Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, returning to direct from the first film and coming fresh off their universally acclaimed The Lego Movie. I never got around to reviewing The Lego Movie, but I thought it was excellent and, much like both Jump Street movies, exceptionally clever. While we’re on the subject, The Lego Movie releases on blu-ray this Tuesday, June 17. So see 22 Jump Street this weekend, then buy The Lego Movie Tuesday. Lord and Miller comedy binge. Back to the review. The movie looks good from a directorial standpoint, and it seems to create the very image it tries to make fun of. That can be a problem. And sometimes it is. Sometimes they make fun of genre cliches, but then the movie falls into those cliches themselves. But it’s not like it can help it. No one expects a movie like this to be flawless, and it certainly isn’t, but my god is it funny. With the two Jump Street movies, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and The Lego Movie under their belt, Lord and Miller are shaping up to be two of the hottest comedic directors we have working. They’re four for four.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Coming hot off the success of The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller provide a surprisingly hilarious sequel to their original surprise hit. The jokes hit more often than not, the chemistry between Tatum and Hill is better than ever, Ice Cube’s scene is gut bustingly hilarious, and the script is one that is so relatively funny it will entertain the average movie goer yet also will it make the film enthusiast appreciative of its in-jokes on genre cliches and the state of modern movie sequels. Also, be sure to stick around for the end credits sequence which is one of the funniest I’ve seen and worth the price of admission alone. It had me rolling.

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