Nick Offerman delivers a monologue at the start of “22 Jump Street” about the surprise success of the 21 Jump Street case, i.e. the plot at the center of 2012’s “21 Jump Street,” obviously. He explains that no one cared about it the first time around, but now they’re going to throw more money at, as though that would produce better results, do the same thing and keep everyone happy.
It’s a wickedly self aware moment, and Offerman is talking about this original film, but he may as well be talking about “The Hangover” or any action sequel ever made.
Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller proved earlier this year that they can be transparently self-aware and still be innovative with “The LEGO Movie.” So they more than anyone know that for “22 Jump Street” to be good and even better than the original, it would have to be more than a sequel about bad sequels.
And yet here Jonah Hill is, doing slam poetry that isn’t as funny as his Peter Pan song. Here’s a drug tripping sequence involving split screen dream worlds for both Hill and Channing Tatum that isn’t as funny as Tatum diving through a gong or Rob Riggle trying to put Hill’s tongue back in his mouth. And here’s Tatum stupidly saying Cate Blanchett when he means “carte blanche,” and the movie not following up on getting that cameo the way they did with Johnny Depp the first time around.
“22 Jump Street” is literally the same movie as the first one with more money thrown at it, and that might be the point, but that doesn’t make it a stronger or equal film.
Just as before, Schmidt and Jenko (Hill and Tatum) think they’re hot shot cops capable of laying down the law on any mobsters around. When they let their mark get away, they’re back to the Jump Street beat, this time trying to locate a dealer and finally a supplier for yet another dangerous drug. But they’ve brought their game to a college campus, and tracking down leads or hiding their cop identities proves to be more difficult.
Like any sequel, it’s the same story in a new location with a little twist on the main story. Jenko finds himself the new star wide receiver of the football team and pledging a frat, and Schmidt hooks up with a cute art major with ties to the drug’s most recent victim. With the relocation, it supplants some of the more ludicrously zany high school antics of blowing up chemicals and getting stabbed at house parties with the typical images of frat boy tomfoolery and spring breakers partying.
As charming as Tatum and Hill still are together, “22 Jump Street” loses much of the innocence that made the first one so affecting. The two are absurd bro parodies, and yet their kinship as they pelvic thrusted and swore constantly felt earned and even touching in a stupidly cute way. Now Hill and Tatum are forced to play up the sexual innuendos at each turn. The formerly clever dialogue about Korean Jesus and otherwise feels replaced with puns and one forced joke about having a “meat cute”.
This year’s “Neighbors” does the better job of updating the college comedy and giving it new dimension. “22 Jump Street” treads the same ground and gets a few laughs at its own expense, but one hopes the future sequels the film eventually alludes to have some new ideas.