Honest, the Sequel Is Much Funnier

22 Jump Street is wittier and more clever than the original, 21 Jump Street.

By - Jun 13th, 2014 03:46 pm
22 Jump Street

22 Jump Street

Rated R, 112 min. Directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller. Starring Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas, Nick Offerman, Amber Stevens, Wyatt Russell.

Sequels, sheesh, am I right, folks? Contradictorily bigger and louder and more expensive than their predecessors and also cheaper and smaller and lazier and not as fun. So of course I went into 22 Jump Street thinking “I loved the first one but sequels, geez, c’mon already Hollywood,” and grumped as the lights went down.

And just as I was humbled by the fact that 21 Jump Street was a far better reboot of a TV show than any right-thinking movie fan should have expected, I was humbled that 22 Jump Street is funnier, cleverer, wittier and snarkier than the first film. It is nonstop self-deprecation — as if it is embarrassed by its “sequel to a reboot” status — that doles out well-deserved smacks to about 817 Hollywood things that desperately deserve it: TV shows that become movies, sequelitis, dumb cops, dumb action heroes, meet-cutes, obvious red herrings, buddy cops, buddy comedies, bromances, gun fights, fist fights, college comedies, frat comedies (hell yeah: just the small amount of frat stuff here is way better than the entirety of Neighbors), 30-something actors playing teenagers, and other nonsense. Dammit, even the deliberately clichéd soundtrack is deployed to brilliant comedic effect.

I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. The kind of laughter where you didn’t think you were capable of such transport and you’re a little scared by it. By the end credits — which are, dear god, insanely funny in how they knock everything you dread for the future of even a franchise this good — I was on the verge of an actual crackup from cracking up.

One little moment sorta encapsulates what 22 is doing. Cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) have “graduated” to going undercover at “Metro City State College” — they’re investigating a drugs case that is “just like last time” — and Jenko finds himself unexpectedly enthralled by his Human Sexuality class. As he’s devouring the textbook, he says to Schmidt, with a sort of newly self-aware horror, “Did you know I used gay slurs all through high school?” And he’s sorry about this! It’s like a little metaphor for how Hollywood can be taught, how it can be enlightened. This movie is as big and as loud and as actiony and as goofy as an action comedy sequel can be, and yet it’s (mostly) not stupid, sexist, or homophobic along the way. For good measure there’s a running joke about how Jenko, who is dumber than a bag of Glocks, sometimes realizes this, and laments how it limits him. “Fuck you, brain,” he says, rather sadly, to himself, and it zings by before you even realize how brilliant that is.

Returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and should-be-too-many-but-isn’t screenwriters Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman, and Jonah Hill (yup, same guy) don’t get it all 100 percent right: there’s an aside with Rob Riggle and Dave Franco, bad guys returning from the first film, that is a little uncomfortable and never quite genuinely funny or as enlightened as I think it thinks it is. But it’s still not quite the same old sort of retrograde shit so many other similar movies end up with, but more a they’re-trying-to-be-smarter-but-they-failed sort of thing. (If you’ve got that many guys working on your script anyway, maybe make room for one more, maybe a woman? It’s an idea!)

And that defect is almost made up for by a long game of a joke that addresses the frequent hypocrisies of how men approve — or don’t — of other men’s sexual conquests. And also by the just plain niceness of the humor. So much of what passes for comedy coming out of Hollywood is meanspirited, taking easy swipes at the powerless and downtrodden. 22 Jump Street punches up, at the excesses and inanities of Hollywood, and not down, at targets who don’t deserve it, and even then, it’s never cruel about it.

22 Jump Street is now playing at the Hillside, IPic/Bayshore, Majestic, Mayfair Mall, Menomonee Falls, North Shore, Ridge, Saukville, Showtime, South Shore, Southgate.

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