22 Jump Street (2014)
★★★ / ★★★★
Given that I felt lukewarm toward Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s “21 Jump Street,” the idea of yet another sequel—born from only a slightly above average reboot no less—did not exactly excite me. That is, until I saw the trailer for “22 Jump Street,” also directed by Lord and Miller, which showcases a level of self-awareness, an attitude that reflects my sentiment: “Another sequel? Is this really necessary?” I thought then that it just might work. Necessary it is not, but it does work.
Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) has botched up yet another operation. Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) has a solution: assigning the not-so-dynamic duo on a very similar case that they have managed to solve in the past, only this time they are going undercover as college students instead of high school students. A girl was found dead. It is believed that her passing was due to a drug called WHYPHY—similar to Ritalin during its early phases but has pernicious effects later on. Schmidt and Jenko must find the dealer which will then allow them to capture the supplier.
Although the picture is not riotously funny in every single scene, its constant willingness to go out of its way to look silly or stupid is so infectious, one cannot help but crack a smile through the attempts. However, when the most effective punchlines do come around eventually, they tickle the gut as a feather does to the foot.
A weakness I found in its predecessor is the unconvincing arc between Jenko and Schmidt. That is, how their rivalry evolved into a strong friendship. Here, since they start off having a strong bond already, the screenplay gets more of a chance to play around with that friendship. The “bro-mance” between the lead characters, though overplayed during the second half, are very funny.
Hill has a way of making Schmidt come across so needy and clingy at times that we relate to Jenko wanting to get to know other people who are more like himself: into football, working out, binge-drinking (Wyatt Russell). Tatum plays an oaf of a character but we love Jenko anyway because the jokes directed at or coming from him are good-natured and full of energy. He, too, is good-natured when it comes down to it and so it is impossible not to like him.
Thus, like classic partnerships, Schmidt and Jenko are opposites. We all know what they say about opposites and so the writers—Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman—must find fresh ways to make the idea amusing. Since Hill and Tatum’s styles of comedy are different—though not exactly opposites—the comedic situations tend to work more than a handful of times. I enjoyed that the actors seem game for anything—even making fun of their physiques as well as their past roles in other movies that are considered to be “unsuccessful.” (I enjoyed Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down.”)
It could have benefited from a stronger investigation or more sleuthing. The protagonists are supposed to be undercover cops after all. This shortcoming is also found in the first picture. The filmmakers wish to make the same movie and poke fun of it through a heightened sense of self-awareness—which is fine. But the approach proves to be a double-edged sword in that it is likely to have similar deficiencies unless the writers actively try to work around it. I suppose they are able to do this—at least to a degree—because such a limitation is less severe here.
“22 Jump Street” offers a good time including a little bit of sweetness. It targets many things—from the ritualistic stupidity of undergraduate life and all it has to offer to very close male friendships—but the material never results to being mean-spirited about any of them. Since we are experiencing a period of very cynical and pessimistic filmmaking, that specific quality is, in my eyes, an achievement worthy of praise.