Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube
Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Screenplay: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel
Action/Comedy/Crime, Rated: R
Running Time: 112 minutes
Release Date: June 13, 2014
Schmidt & Jenko: Duo, P-P Moral, Pro (Untransformed Buddy Heroes)
Mercedes: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Mastermind Villain)
Greg, it’s looking like Jump Street is a much longer road than we thought.
And I enjoyed the ride a lot more than I imagined I would. Let’s recap:
Our two heroes from 21 Jump Street, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are assigned the task of going undercover at a local university. Apparently, the use of a new illegal drug called WHY-PHY (work hard yes, play hard yes) has reached epidemic proportions and recently killed a young coed. Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) wants Schmidt and Jenko to locate and arrest the suppliers of this drug.
Schmidt and Jenko arrive on campus and immediately try to merge into the local scene. They are doing well despite looking older than their peers. Schmidt befriends a young woman (named Maya, played by Amber Stevens) who happens to have been the across-the-hall neighbor of the deceased coed. Meanwhile, hunky Jenko is embraced by a local fraternity where he is becoming best buds with the captain of the football team (Zook, played by Wyatt Russell). This new pairing is splitting up our buddy cops and is the bromance portion of our story.
Greg, although there are some occasionally amusing moments in 22 Jump Street, I just couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm for this movie. The story and premise are pretty much pointless. Now I will admit that I’ve enjoyed some pointless comedies in the past, but for a pointless movie to be enjoyable, some elements must truly stand out as excellent. The jokes have to be stellar and consistently good throughout the movie, or the characters must be particularly memorable. I didn’t see that here.
22 Jump Street features some clever humor at times, as when our two heroes remark that Ice Cube’s office looks like a cube of ice. But these moments of cleverness are in short supply. One long-running joke is that the two main male friendships in the movie (between Schmidt & Jenko, and between Jenko & Zook) have some of the characteristics of a gay relationship. This joke isn’t very funny and actually becomes painful to watch as it’s milked repeatedly over 90 minutes. Another tired joke is that Schmidt and Jenko look too old for their roles. Yes, we get that — over and over again.
I liked this film a lot more than you did, Scott. This was a very clever look at the typical buddy-cop sequel. There are constant references made to how “this case is exactly like the last one.” And how Schmidt and Jenko must stop trying to do something different and solve this case just like they did last time. In other words, we all know this is a sequel. We all know that the audience expects a retread of what they’ve seen before. Now just go out there and give it to them.
Within that context, the movie delivers a very sardonic look at the state of movies and their sequels. There are so few new concepts in Hollywood. Last year of the 75 movies we reviewed, 15 were sequels. That’s a whopping 20%. 22 Jump Street’s writers knew what was expected of them – to do the same as last time only bigger. But they didn’t – they delivered a perfect send up of the Hollywood sequel. I think it was a very smart movie.
As much as I like Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, they aren’t funny. At least not to me. They are likeable and amusing, but that’s it. So the running jokes fell flat for me, and not much was going on that held my interest. 22 Jump Street is not only a movie that is constantly winking at itself, it is a movie that is winking at it’s own winking. This isn’t the first film that pokes fun at itself and its genre, and it isn’t close to being the funniest, either.
As you might expect, the buddy hero story here is inconsequential. Goofball comedies aren’t designed to deliver any kind of meaningful message about life or about how people grow or change. So we’re presented with a parody of how buddy cops grow apart and then in the course of events are brought closer together at the end. The characters aren’t meant to be taken seriously, so there isn’t much meaningful analysis we can do here.
Which is exactly the point of this spoof. It takes a look at the buddy-cop hero archetype and plays it to the extreme. For every earnest attempt at creating a buddy-cop movie, there is a joke in 22 Jump Street that pokes fun.
And there are other side jokes that are great. The duo are seeking out a man with a tattoo on his bicep who is the drug supplier. Jenko is on the tail of a college football player (by going undercover as one of the players) only to learn that the tattoo his suspect has is of a … wait for it … red herring. Not the tattoo they were looking for.
The villains are like typical villains we’ve seen in other buddy-cop stories – virtually invisible until we need a chase scene to wrap up the story. And 22 Jump Street delivers on that as well. The villains are painfully ordinary and typical and just what you’d expect. But there’s a twist on who the kingpin is – just as most buddy-cop movies might deliver. Even in creating their villains, 22 Jump Street is keenly aware of the fact that they’re in a sequel making fun of sequels.
22 Jump Street is a movie that I wanted to like but just couldn’t. I have to give them credit — the filmmakers put a lot of effort into this movie, almost as if they realized they had almost nothing to work with and therefore had to pull out all the stops. I give them an “A” for effort here. But the movie deserves only one and a half Reels. I’ll generously round up and make it 2 out of 5.
The buddy heroes were not terribly memorable people, nor was their journey a notable one at all. The less said the better here. Again, I’ll give them 2 out of 5 Heroes. As you note, Greg, the villains play a peripheral role in the movie. But I do need to give a shout-out to the stand-out performance delivered by Jillian Bell who plays the student roommate villain. She is by far the most interesting character in the movie, as well as the funniest. I wish we could have seen more of her in the film. Overall, I’ll give the villains a rating of 2 out of 5.
I had the opposite opinion – I expected to hate this film but was dragged into its farce kicking and screaming – with laughter. You’re right, this is a film that knew a sequel would be ridiculous – so the filmmakers made it ludicrous. And good for them. Still, the joke can only go so far. While I enjoyed myself, grudgingly, I can only award 3 out of 5 Reels for a comedy that satisfied both those who wanted a sequel and those who dreaded one.
The heroes are not really superb – they are the typical buddy-cops we’ve come to expect from such films. They don’t inspire us to great heights or warn us of great depths. I can only award these caricatures 2 out of 5 Heroes.
I have to agree with you on the villains. The typical bad guys are boring and perform their role. It’s only the introduction of the roommate from hell that makes the villains rise above complete worthlessness. I can only give her 1 Villain out of 5, however.
Finally, if you have any doubt about whether 22 Jump Street in any way takes itself seriously, just sit around for the ending credits. It will definitely fill you in on what is yet to come.