The first 21 Jump Street was a gleeful sendup of movies based on bad TV shows.
The latest, 22 Jump Street is, as you would expect, a gleeful sendup of unnecessary sequels to movies based on bad TV shows. But more importantly, it’s also a send up of buddy films.
The secret homoerotic subtext of buddy films has long been a source of amusement for critics—and even fans—of the genre. But 22 Jump Street takes the buddy film out of the closet, if you will. The film is a lark on the fact that partners Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) essentially have a romantic relationship. They’re partners in fighting crime and life-partners, too. (At one point, a psychiatrist, assuming they’re a couple, gives them relationship therapy. “Sometimes, it’s like he’s not even trying anymore,” Schmidt moans.). The film is also acknowledging the truth of this franchise: It’s the frisky, warm, loose-limbed chemistry between Tatum and Hill that makes the whole thing soar.
This time, the boys are in college, seeking the dealer of a new drug called “WhyPhy” and, unlike the original, where their expected social roles were reversed (Schmidt was the popular dude; Jenko was the outcast)—things are lining up according to plan: Schmidt is hanging out at poetry slams and Jenko has fast become the star receiver on the NC State football team.
The conflict arises when Jenko bonds with star quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell—Goldie and Kurt’s kid). They “meet cute” (a strained joke involving a meat sandwich and a Q-Tip, that I nonetheless laughed at) and start hanging out a lot, two alpha males with a lot in common. Despite that fact that Schmidt has a new girlfriend Maya (Amber Stevens), he’s jealous of Zook.
One of the recurring jokes of the film is that Schmidt and Jenko really are different. Jenko can hop from building to building, action-hero style. Schmidt, noting that he “doesn’t do parkour” takes the stairs or, in one scene, the world’s slowest zipline. Jenko is cheerful and a little dumb; Schmidt is neurotic. When they accidentally overdose on WhyPhy, their different “trips” are show in split screen. Schmidt is in some sort of scary hellscape, Jenko is in a cartoon-like meadow of rainbows and flowers.
22 Jump Street never met a joke it didn’t want milk to death—but of course, they’re also commenting on films that do that. (The film is meta to the point of being critic-proof.) But I must admit, I laughed out loud several times.
One favorite riff involved Maya’s roommate Mercedes (Jillian Bell, nearly stealing the show), who is convinced that Schmidt is at least 30. Every time she sees him, she makes an old man joke. “I’m 19!” he insists. “Nineteen minutes late to the pinochle game?” she replies. The denouement of their sparring is one of the funniest fight scenes I’ve ever seen on film.
Also, whatever you do, please stay through the credits, where they giddily race through several years of upcoming Jump Street sequels. (My favorite? Jump Street: Generations, featuring Richard Grieco and Dustin Nyogen).
At this point, they’ve made so many jokes about dumb sequels they almost can’t do another one. Unless . . .what if they become so meta they doubleback around and actually become . . . sincere? Whoa.