Movies are products intended to make money. As much as critics would like to believe that all forms of cinematic narrative are art, studios beg to differ. Successful projects spawn sequels regardless of whether said story needs to be told. 21 Jump Street found a great deal of success with its reboot in 2012, but when a second installment was announced, bloggers were understandably left wondering if that was such a great idea. Phil Lord and Chris Miller already turned in one project this year that was far more entertaining than anyone thought it had the right to be, so lucking out twice in 2014 may be too much to ask.
Right away it is made clear that 22 Jump Street isn't going to reinvent the wheel when it comes to sequels, but that won't stop them from tearing them apart either. Out of high school for the second time Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are on their own taking down cartels and black markets gun runners. The problem is they're not very good at it. After botching a major operation Schmidt and Jenko wind up back in the office of Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman).
This dressing down serves two purposes: one, to set up the premise and two, for Offerman to serve as a meta commentary on the bigger-is-better Hollywood mentality. Schmidt and Jenko weren't able to complete their last mission, so they will have to do “the same thing again.” Instead of high school the duo will go deep undercover at Metro City State, but beyond that we're back to square one. In true sequel fashion everything is bigger and more expensive this time. The new headquarters at 22 Jump Street resemble something akin to a home for Tony Stark. Blessedly, the precinct is still headed by the singular rage machine that is Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). He lays it all out clear and simple. “Same identities. Same assignment. Infiltrate the dealer. Find the supplier.” The drug of choice this time is WHYPHY, four hours of focus-enhancement followed by a wild acid trip. The dealer, as always, is unclear.
In high school Schmidt and Jenko's popularity were reversed the second time around. College flips the paradigm again pairing Jenko with the star quarterback, and Schmidt with art major and roommate of victim, Maya (Amber Stevens). Hill and Tatum's easy chemistry is more than enough for a sequel to coast on by itself and the two mine plenty of laughs from their sometimes uncomfortable bromance. The buddy cops are more prone to bickering this time around, but given their strong, comic skills the end result makes up for any repetition. Both actors have grown in their time since 21 Jump Street and it's a pleasure watching them try to outdo each other for laughs.
Detractors will argue that 22 Jump Street is too rehashed to be anything other than a rental on a lazy Sunday, but the way Lord and Miller revel in the meta-ness of it all makes it clear than they are in on the joke as well. 22 Jump Street pokes fun at everything ranging from White House Down to Annie Hall. The fun is irrepressible and the pace is rapid fire. A major highlight features Schmidt and Jenko trying to lead a car chase through cheaper sets, in hopes of save the department (studio) money. Audiences may not be treated to a funnier sequence all year.
Quick note: Stay through the credits, trust me, it's worth it.