It’s been a couple of years since the incredibly enjoyable 21 Jump Street came out of nowhere – inept cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) were forced to join Captain Dickson’s (Ice Cube) undercover team at 21 Jump Street and infiltrate a high-school drug ring. The relentless mix of action and laughs proved to be one of the highlights of 2012, and one of the best comedy pairings since Dumb and Dumber.
The sequel sees the Jump Street headquarters relocate across the road to number 22, and from a much snazzier office, Captain Dickson assigns Schmidt and Jenko a mission to go undercover to infiltrate a college drug ring – ‘just do the same thing you did last time’ he tells them. It’s a gag that carries through the entire film, right through the end credits where movie artwork for future renditions of the Jump Street franchise see Tatum and Hill go to culinary school, scuba school, dance school, and dozens more renditions of the formula.
While the film unashamedly sets out to give more of the same – it doesn’t quite manage it. 21 Jump Street was original and clever in the way that it flipped audience expectations. Jenko had to find his feet in a high-school environment where being loud and bullying were no longer keys to success. And Schmidt’s introversion and thoughtfulness, traits that had been his weakness previously, were now respected among his liberal, ecologically minded peers. It’s not such a smooth ride for Schmidt this time around. While Jenko immediately slots in with the jocks on the football team, Schmidt is left to wander the arts block, attending awkward late-night slam poetry recitals to try to get a lead on the new synthetic drug ‘whyphy’ – a potent mash-up of aderall and acid that gets students intensely focused and tripping in equal measure. When Jenko’s bonding with his new best-friend-forever Zook (Wyatt Russell) causes a rift with Schmidt, the two cops are forced to deal with their personal relationship to save their professional partnership.
Schmidt and Jenko are not the only duo returning in this sequel – fresh from The Lego Movie, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are quickly becoming the kings of action-comedy, consistently capable of nailing it with precision. The original writing team (including Jonah Hill) are back in an expanded form as well – and despite the jokes leaning heavily on the ‘sequel-ness’ of things, it is rarity that they don’t pay off. With that said, if you haven’t watched the first film, make sure to do so – I’m sure 22 Jump Street would stand well enough by itself, but much of the joy comes from references to the earlier movie. Evidently, this film lacks some of the originality that 21 Jump Street had – it makes such a point of overtly telling us this that it seems redundant to say it. So while it brings no surprises, it does bring along even more of the clever writing, great comedy, and action. It’s a classic case of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it – and while future renditions of the formula will quickly grow stale, this one will be one of the summer’s comedy highlights.