22 Jump Street

After a failed undercover operation to capture drug smuggler The Ghost (Peter Stormare), officers Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) meet with their boss, Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) and find they’ve been reassigned to the Jump Street program under the direction of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube).  Now located at 22 Jump Street across from the previous location, the office is high tech and futuristically decorated thanks to a nearly unlimited budget.  Captain Dickson assigns Schmidt and Jenko to an undercover operation at the nearby college to stop the spread of a new drug called WHYPHY (which stands for “Work hard, yes! Play hard, yes!”)  The synthetic causes users to experience four hours of hyper alertness for studying then a period of psychedelic tripping.  One student has killed herself while using WHYPHY.  There’s a picture of that student apparently buying the drug from a male wearing a hoodie.  Despite nearly everyone noticing the pair look older than they should for college freshmen, Schmidt and Jenko settle in and try to earn the trust of students while looking for the supplier of WHYPHY.  Schmidt makes friends with Maya (Amber Stevens), a student who lived across the hall from the dead co-ed and Jenko meets the football team quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell) when he tries out for the squad.  Both cops make the most of their newfound relationships but this puts a strain on their working partnership as Schmidt feels like Jenko is pulling away due to his friendship with Zook.  Jenko, who never went to college, is a star receiver on the football team and enjoys the similarities between Zook and him.  Their partnership fractures when the pair is invited to join a fraternity of which Zook is the president.  During their initiation Schmidt quits while Jenko stays because he enjoys the camaraderie with Zook and the others, leaving Schmidt to struggle, both personally and professionally, on his own. 
“22 Jump Street” is aware it is a sequel.  It uses that to its comedic advantage, wringing numerous jokes and laughs from poking fun at its own existence.  It also co-opts the tropes of romantic comedies and lays it over the frame of a buddy/cop comedy to create the kind of hybrid that works even though it shouldn’t.  The fact this film is this funny and it’s a sequel is a minor miracle.  It deserves your pilgrimage to witness its glory.  OK, that might be going a bit too far but nonetheless, the movie is funny and worth a look.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are about the most unlikely comedic team-up in cinematic history.  Hill is usually playing a slacker schlub and Tatum normally plays the handsome, athletic leading man.  That the pair can create so many laughs as a team is incredible.  Thanks to a script by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman, Hill and Tatum have a huge toolbox of gags, both verbal and physical, to work with.  Each is given their opportunity to shine in various sections of the movie.
Jonah Hill’s Schmidt is the guy who tries too hard at a party to insert himself in conversations.  He says the wrong thing or too much of the right thing, making the situation awkward.  Schmidt carries this over from adolescents when Jenko and others picked on his in high school.  At his core, Schmidt just wants to be liked and have a friend.  He thinks he’s found that in Jenko; but when his buddy seems to be drifting away and making new friends, Schmidt becomes jealous and tries to cling that much more closely to Jenko.  This makes Jenko pull away even more and leads to the eventual break-up of their partnership.  Hill plays the classic female character in this twisted variation of romantic comedies.  The film even shows him as the only male making the early morning “walk of shame” across campus along with the rest of the women.  They are all carrying their shoes in their hands, looking down hoping no one will recognize them.  It is the kind of role reversal that might make some people angry as it seems to be trivializing it.  To me, it makes it more of an equal opportunity soul-crushing experience.
Channing Tatum, who has proven he is funny is several previous films, cements his crown as the most handsome laugh generator in movies today.  One scene in particular, around half way through the film (no spoilers), provides explosive laughs as Jenko responds to the discovery of the identity of Schmidt’s on-campus girlfriend.  There is a bit of a slow burn then he explodes in a joyous dance of celebration.  It lasts a rather long time but doesn’t lose any of its humor.  Tatum plays the dumb jock and the dedicated police officer with equal enthusiasm.  He’s also a friendly, likable jock that you don’t mind seeing succeed because he won’t grind it in your face.
The supporting cast, from featured players to cameos, delivers strong performances that make the lead actors look that much better.  Ice Cube is both intimidating and hilarious as Captain Dickson.  His constant berating of Schmidt and Jenko, along with his foul mouth, provides a bit of heat to Hill and Tatum’s likable coolness.  Amber Stevens is a sweet but modern college student who, for some reason, likes Schmidt despite his awkward neediness.  Jillian Bell, who plays Amber’s roommate Mercedes, is a queen of the deadpan insult.  She notices Schmidt is much older than he claims and nearly every sentence said to him is a comment and insult about how old he is.  She is ruthless and delivers her quips with laser precision.  Her taunts come so fast you might miss a few.  They are devastating.  Wyatt Russell plays Zook as a hopeful young man with the drive and determination to make something of himself.  He likes to party and workout but seems to have more going on in his head than just those things.  That notion gets turned off late in the movie and used as a device to get our troubled main pair back together again.  Marc Evan Jackson plays a psychology professor who starts his first class with a Tracy Morgan impression.  Jackson, a character actor who has one of those faces you’ve seen before but have no idea what his name is, has two very brief scenes but they both work to perfection.  Rob Riggle and Dave Franco return from the first film as inmates Schmidt and Jenko approach for advice on their case.  Riggle is a fantastic improviser and I feel like a lot of his dialog was of his own making.  The strangeness of Riggle’s character makes his bizarre behavior that much more hilarious.  Franco isn’t given much to do but makes the most of it.  There are also cameos from Queen Latifah, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Patton Oswalt and more.
“22 Jump Street” is rated R for language throughout, drug material, brief nudity, sexual content and some violence.  All the drug material is about the fictitious WHYPHY.  The sexual content is more verbal than visual.  I don’t remember any nudity but it must be there.  Violence consists mostly of shootings and fist fights.  We see a character shot in the arm with a small trickle of blood.  Foul language is common throughout.
Between all the funny people and a script packed with jokes of all types, “22 Jump Street” is that rare sequel that manages to improve on the original.  While it does slow down a bit as the cop couple go through their troubles, the film mostly has a frenetic pace that keeps its energy and rarely lets up.  It had me laughing through most of it, including the closing credits where the playing with the idea of sequels is taken to the extreme.  There is also a brief bonus scene at the very end of the credits.  If you’ve enjoyed the movie, it’s worth sticking around.
“22 Jump Street” gets five guitars out of five.
Five new films would like your company this week.  Vote for the next movie I see and review.
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Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews and film of his choice currently in theatres or On Demand.
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