One of the biggest surprises of 2012 in film was how legitimately great 21 Jump Street was. It was arguably the funniest film of the year, and the film actually cared about its two main leads. Of course in the film world of today a success like 21 Jump Street meant a sequel was on the way, and the film more than welcomed it with a joke-filled cliffhanger ending. However, like most sequels outside of the superhero genre, 22 Jump Street is a far inferior film. The jokes don’t work as much, the characters aren’t as interesting, and the film is much too bloated in comparison to the very sleek nature of the original.
Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return from the first film to direct 22 Jump Street. Since that first film, Lord and Miller have turned into some of the best comedic film directors working, but it seems clear that they were overworked and, maybe, didn’t have their hearts in it for this rehash of Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) going undercover to find out the source of a student engineered drug. Having released the much superior The Lego Movie in 2014 as well it’s clear that it’s with that film that most of Lord and Miller’s energy went into.
With so many meta jokes, the 21 Jump Street film franchise is quickly becoming the non-puppet version of The Muppets. Unfortunately, the cheesy jokes are much harder to take when a large portion are delivered by Channing Tatum. Tatum’s Jenko is such a clichéd dumb, sexy-looking jock that it is quite revealing when the actor actually gets a load of praise for his performance. Tatum just has very little range as an actor, and the 22 Jump Street may have found the tiny portion of that range where he can actually work. Yet that doesn’t do much when that tiny portion leads to such an uninteresting character. Also, while The Muppets will follow a storyline that is easy enough for kids to follow (making the characters the highlight of the film), this film follows such a convoluted plot that you won’t really have much interest in the mystery by the time the drug dealer is finally revealed.
22 Jump Street isn’t a complete waste of time. Jonah Hill is once again a consistent source of comedy, and he gets some great moments with Ice Cube, who gets a much more expanded role in this film. Yet this is a vast drop down in quality from one of my favorite films of 2012.