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Review: 22 Jump Street

June 18, 2014

By John Corrado

*** (out of 4)

22 Jump Street Poster

It’s an unwritten rule of comedy that sequels are rarely as funny as their predecessors, with the majority of followups to comedic classics being easily forgotten over the years.  But rules were made to be broken, and that’s something directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller obviously know very well.

They are refreshingly aware of this unwritten rule in 22 Jump Street, the appropriately titled follow up to their surprisingly great 2012 hit.  The result is an insanely self referential sequel that hilariously makes light of bigger budgets and diminishing returns, while also expanding the characters and delivering its own fair share of big laughs.

This is a film that somewhat paradoxically works by constantly acknowledging the fact that it shouldn’t be working this well in the first place, and in turn becomes the rare comedy sequel that stands proudly alongside the original film.  That sounds like an almost confusingly meta way to describe a summer comedy, but 22 Jump Street pulls off all of these things with ease.

After taking down the drug dealers in high school, police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are going back undercover and this time Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) is sending them to college, where there is a new drug making the rounds.  But their partnership is tested when Jenko joins the football team and becomes best buddies with Zook (Wyatt Russell), and Schmidt finds his place in the art scene, falling in love with Maya (Amber Stevens).

The first 21 Jump Street was one of the funniest and most inventive comedies in recent memory, offering some smart commentary about the ways that high school is depicted in pop culture.  That film was a reboot of the 1980s TV show that worked by subverting our expectations of remakes, and 22 Jump Street similarly sets its sights on blasting stereotypes of second instalments.  And if the proceedings don’t feel quite as fresh as they did the first time around, the film makes up for it with a completely unhinged sense of humour.

This is the sort of comedy that goes all out to bring the laughs, expertly setting up running gags and even working in a few plot twists.  With some inventively used split screens, there are entire sequences here that make us laugh out loud, culminating with an appropriately over the top Spring Break finale and a priceless montage over the end credits.  Much of this success is thanks to the crack team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who are equally adept at delivering hilarious one liners and elaborately staged sight gags, offering plenty of both in 22 Jump Street.

The same directors also delivered what remains the highest grossing film of the year with The Lego Movie, an entertaining if overrated animated effort that offered something more creative and inventive than the toy commercial that it seemed like on the surface.  And now they have another genuine hit on their hands with 22 Jump Street, which even beat fellow new release How To Train Your Dragon 2 for the box office crown last weekend, in an impressive sequel showdown.

Much like the teaming of Phil Lord and Chris Miller behind the camera, there is another dynamic duo that is responsible for the success of these films.  That is the hilarious bromantic pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, who have both proven themselves as some of the best in the business at this type of humour.  But perhaps the biggest reason for these incredible financial returns is because 22 Jump Street is just so darn entertaining, a hilarious comedy that smartly references its own sequel status.

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