photo courtesy of 22 Jump Street Movie.com

photo courtesy of 22 Jump Street Movie.com

By Matt DeRenzo

It’s very rare when a comedy sequel actually delivers the same amount of laughs and poignant observations as its predecessor.  22 Jump Street accomplishes and exceeds this task with flying colors. The sequel to 21 Jump Street, the film adaptation of a TV show from the 1980’s, is able to maintain a balance between a level of dignity and sophomoric goofiness that is rarely seen in comedy sequels.

         22 Jump Street basically tells the same story as its predecessor 21 Jump Street except it’s based in college instead of high school.  Officer Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Officer Jenko (Channing Tatum) are sent to be undercover students at a local college, after a drug bust with a group of Latin gang members goes horribly wrong.  Schmidt and Jenko are sent to college to uncover and arrest the main dealer that has been selling a new drug called “WHYPHY”.

The entire idea of making a sequel to 21 Jump Street was a baffling notion.  The only good reason for making a 21 Jump Street sequel would be to cash in on the enormous success of the first movie.  I hardly imagined anything substantial coming out of 22 Jump Street, even the name sounded ridiculous.  The final product of 22 Jump Street however shows the directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were entirely up to the challenge.

        22 Jump Street hits most of the same beats that appeared in the last movie but the filmmakers were able to make it work for them.  The entire film has self-aware fun with the ludicrous idea of making a sequel to a movie based on a long-forgotten TV show from the 80’s.  The directors (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) and writers (Michael BacallOren UzielRodney Rothman and Jonah Hill) fill the story and dialogue of 22 Jump Street with self-aware jokes about the ridiculous genre conventions of action and comedy sequels without sounding to pretentious.  It can be very difficult to maintain a level of sincerity when you are writing a “meta” comedy.  Watching a movie that uses self-aware jokes as the basis for its comedy can make the audience feel like their being talked down to about watching a goofy comedy.  The audience for 22 Jump Street is made to feel as if their entirely in on the joke.  We laugh along with the characters, instead of feeling as if the characters are laughing at us.  The characters are constantly stating how they are doing the same type of thing they did in the first movie. The police chief (Nick Offerman) who is the boss of the two main characters, Officer Schmidt and Officer Jenko, makes constant “meta” references such as how he constantly tells Schmidt and Jenko that they are only good at “doing the exact same undercover student thing”.

        22 Jump Street fills its entire running time with quick and short jokes.  There is so much material in this movie that you could truly benefit from a second viewing.  There are constant in-jokes within scenes that are seen for a split second in the movie that you might miss during a first or even second viewing.  During scenes that are supposed to be semi-serious there are usually one or two jokes in the background of that scene that you will barely notice if you’re only focusing on the main action happening in the scene.  During a scene when Schmidt and Jenko are running across the campus they pass a building that’s called the Benjamin J. Hill School for Cinema Studies.  I barely noticed the joke within this scene, until afterwards when I realized it was a reference to the British TV show The Benny Hill Show which had similar comic scenes of characters running frantically.  The filmmakers were obviously inspired by the self-referential and quick-witted work of the movie comedy greats such as Mel Brooks and David Zucker.  Similar to Brooks and Zucker’s films, 22 Jump Street fills almost every scene with so many jokes that some may fall flat, but most of the jokes are so uproariously funny they make up for any jokes that may not get as big of laughs from audiences.

        22 Jump Street accomplishes its goal of being a quality sequel to its predecessor. There are many ways this movie could have gone wrong, but the stylish and witty directing skills of Phil Lord and Christopher Millermade sure this movie was not going to be a washed-out sequel.  There is a swagger and confidence the actors in22 Jump Street give to their performances.  You can tell this was a project of passion for the movie’s filmmakers and actors.  If you were having any doubts that 22 Jump Street was going to fall way below the quality of the first film, your doubts will be squashed after seeing this movie.