Movie Review: 22 Jump Street

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Ace crimefighting duo Schmidt and Jenko follow up their successful undercover high school case by going undercover at college.

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Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, 2014

Bumbling undercover police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are introduced to us via a busted drug bust, with Schmidt’s clumsiness and Jenko’s lack of intelligence ruining their chances at catching drug kingpin The Ghost (Peter Stormare). With their department under heavy scrutiny, it’s decided that the only way to get their profile up is to…repeat their most successful undercover op, but at college instead of high school. They go to their new headquarters (at, of course, 22 Jump Street), and are given their marching orders by their captain, Dickson (Ice Cube), and head off to college. They promise to stick together, but soon Schmidt’s budding romance with art student Maya (Amber Stevens) and Jenko’s budding bromance with frat jock Zook (Wyatt Russell) cause friction between them that they must work to overcome if they want to get the bad guys…er, again.

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This franchise is so heavy meta at this point that it’s pretty much straight-up death meta. This movie had so many filmmaking in-jokes, just barely walking the line of not outright stating that it’s just a movie. This could fail – and it might not work for some people – but the in-jokes had me laughing so hard I cried. This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of jokes that are played straight. Some jokes hit harder than others, while some go on for too long – it seems to be the downside to this half-scripted, half-improv style of comedy. There’s some prison rape/sexuality “humour” that is disturbing and unfunny. Still, the ones that work are brilliantly funny, and they lend an element of fun and humour to the action scenes. There’s also some surprisingly clever visual quirks that work well. The story isn’t as tight as the first film, no matter how much they lampshade the fact that they’re doing the same thing as in the first film; the rift between the partners isn’t that keenly felt, and it takes a good while of floundering around in the second act before they really get the ball rolling again.

The chemistry between Hill and Tatum continues to be the backbone of the franchise. Hill gets the heavier dramatic lifting this time around, and is more awkward and less funny as a result. Tatum continues to surprise with just how funny he can be – there’s one scene that he delivers with flawless comedic timing that had the whole cinema roaring with laughter. Peter Stormare is generally pretty funny when he’s given the chance, channeling his tendency towards accented scenery-chewing into a nice blend of humour and menace. I’m looking forward to seeing Jillian Bell in more movies in the future – she does a lot with her role as Maya’s disapproving roommate in this film. There are some progressive concepts in here, though they’re not always reflected in the actual film. It’s sad that they can acknowledge some of these problems without solving them. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who also directed or wrote the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs movies, The Lego Movie, and TV show Brooklyn Nine Nine, have a real flair for clever comedy and good quality visuals. They just need to tighten up their storytelling (and writing of women).

22 Jump Street on IMDb

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