Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Outside The Self-Referential Bits, 22 Jump Street Is An Unremarkable Sequel!

The Good: A few funny jokes, One or two performances
The Bad: Obvious plot and character arcs, Most of the humor falls flat
The Basics: A largely unremarkable sequel, 22 Jump Street pretty much just rehashes the first film.

Summer Blockbuster Season has hit a lull of sequels. Outside the new X-Men film, the sequels I have seen so far this summer have been complete duds. Sadly, 22 Jump Street does not break the string of unremarkable sequels hitting theaters this summer. A straightforward comedy, 22 Jump Street is the sequel to the cinematic reimagining 21 Jump Street (reviewed here!) and it is not at all necessary to see the first film before catching the sequel. In fact, the strength and weakness of 22 Jump Street is that it more or less recreates 21 Jump Street. The weakness of 22 Jump Street’s forced recreation of the first film’s plot is that viewers who saw 21 Jump Street will see all of the relationship jokes coming miles away. The strength of 22 Jump Street reusing the plot of the prior film is that some of the jokes that reference the film’s nature are the funniest of the movie.

Where 21 Jump Street was a comedic reimagining of the FOX television series, 22 Jump Street is a parody of its predecessor and a mockery of sequels in general. That means aspects like the delightful cameo provided by Johnny Depp (let’s face it, Richard Greico was going to be available, so that the film got him was not a surprise at all) are absent from the new sequel. Twelve hours after watching 22 Jump Street, only two jokes stood out enough to be memorable. The unlikely subject of a sequel, 22 Jump Street continues the story of Odd Couple cops Schmidt and Jenko.

Following their success at busting a high school drug ring, Schmidt and Jenko continue to work for the narcotics division. There, they have a terrible bust which leads to an octopus launching itself on Schmidt’s face and a gun fight that does more damage than good. The pair reports to Chief Hardy, who assigns the pair to 22 Jump Street where he expects they will do exactly what they did before (exactly!) by going undercover at McState College where a murder has occurred during a narcotic’s deal. Arriving at McState, Schmidt and Jenko work hard to get involved with college groups that might have a drug connection. As the undercover police officers investigate the campus connections for WHY-PHY (Work Hard, Yes – Play Hard, Yes), Schmidt and Jenko begin to experience torsion in their relationship.

Jenko befriends a football player and gets into the local fraternity, which leaves Schmidt working the art scene angle. There, Schmidt hooks up with Maya the college student . . . who turns out to be Captain Dickson’s daughter! After Jenko and Schmidt apparently close the case (the exact same way as before!), the result of their investigation does not sit well with either of them. The two reteam to find The Ghost and stop the WHY-PHY trade at the college.

Fundamentally, the problem with 22 Jump Street is that it is essentially the same film as 21 Jump Street. In addition to having a similar pulse-pounding soundtrack, 22 Jump Street has virtually the same character conflict as its predecessor. In fact, the only real character change in 22 Jump Street is that Schmidt gets laid and the idea of him getting exposed to Captain Dickson offers one of the film’s few moments of joy. It also offers Channing Tatum a wonderful moment to let loose as Jenko in a way that his goofy jock character did not open up in the first film.

The plot of 22 Jump Street is deliberately derivative of the first film and that makes Nick Offerman’s brief role in the film a chance for the often deadpan actor to completely deliver comedically. Outside Offerman and a single moment of Tatum exploding with mockery, the acting in 22 Jump Street is unremarkable. Jonah Hill plays Schmidt with the same deadpan as before and the sheer number of attempts to play the joke wherein Jenko fails completely to improvise in a dangerous situation wears thin quickly.

22 Jump Street is a tough film to say more about; it truly is a case of “if you’ve seen the original, you’ve seen the sequel” and the lack of spark or zest to the movie makes 22 Jump Street impressive only in that it could ever dominate the box office. That such an utterly forgettable film did so well is more of a reflection on the weak market than the quality of 22 Jump Street.

For other comedy sequels, please check out my reviews of:
The Whole Ten Yards
Horrible Bosses 2
The Hangover, Part III


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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