The inspired pairing of Jonah Hill as Schmidt and Channing Tatum as Jenko; a pair of bumbling, undercover cops; is taken out for a respin in “22 Jump Street,” a surprisingly amusing sequel.
After successfully busting a high-school drug ring four years earlier, the now grown-up buds undercover adventures yield a string of dismal failures. Called on the carpet by chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) after their latest investigation fails to yield a bust — but leaves the department saddled with an outsized bill — the duo is given one last chance to reproduce their first and only success. Originally drawn from the ‘80s TV show starring Johnny Depp as a serious undercover cop going back to high school, the premise has been twisted and tied into a series of goofy knots. As one character observes, “Nobody cared about the Jump Street reboot, but, because it worked, this department has invested a lot of money to make sure Jump Street keeps going.”
Skewering itself and its likable main characters, the film not only defuses criticism about revisiting essentially the same plot, it also recruits viewers to be in on the jokes.
When a dangerous designer drug begins making the rounds at fictional university MC State, the boys, now pushing 30, go undercover once again, this time as college students. Jenko is awestruck, observing, “I’m the first person in my family to pretend to go to college.” Schmidt, short and rolly-polly in contrast to Jenko and his statuesque jock body, falls in with the artistic crowd and under the spell of art student Maya (Amber Stevens). Jenko bonds with Zook (Wyatt Russell), a dumb blond Dudley Dooright look-alike who happens to be the football team quarterback and president of a popular fraternity.
While Jenko digs rushing the fraternity, being Zook’s running back and lifting weights with his new best bro, Schmidt hankers for the days when he and Jenko went everywhere together. Schmidt’s girly complaints about their relationship prompts Jenko to suggest, “We should each investigate other people and sow our cop wild oats.”
Jillian Bell, turning up in a notable role as Maya’s petulant roommate, is brilliantly contemptuous and continually ratchets up the tension for Schmidt, whose insecurities go busting out all over.
Appearing as Jenko and Schmidt’s police captain, Ice Cube supplies comical anger, glaring at the boys as he warns them, “Someone assumed that if they paid twice as much for the sequel it would bring in twice the profit.”
He isn’t too far off. While the first installment earned $36 million during its opening weekend, the sequel brought in $60 million during the same time frame. It seems Sony studio execs knew precisely what they were doing when they decided to give the franchise another go. Action rolled into the ending credits and depicts the boys going undercover at various educational institutions (culinary school, army boot camp, etc.) for Jump Street operations that extend all the way to number 34. These hilarious vignettes have me hoping that’s exactly what they do.