22 Jump Street (United States, 2014)

June 13, 2014
A movie review by James Berardinelli
22 Jump Street Poster

There are times when 22 Jump Street is borderline brilliant. Unfortunately, those instances are outnumbered by segments that don't work for one reason or another. On balance, the film has just enough to earn it a recommendation but, with a little trimming to a too-fat running time and less focus on the action elements of the "comedy/action" label, 22 Jump Street might have earned a place as one of 2014's most memorable comedies. As it is, it will be remembered as co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's second-best film of the year (behind The Lego Movie).

One of the strengths of 22 Jump Street is the way in which it plays with conventions and cinematic rules. It acknowledges that sequels are typically inferior retreads, mocks the concept of a "meet cute," and takes the "bromance" idea deep into homoerotic territory. The screenplay also gets a lot of mileage from the notion of a 31-year old and a 34-year old playing just-graduated high school students. The humor, as is often the case with big budget comedies, of the hit-and-miss variety. There are instances, however, when it's equal parts laugh-aloud funny and bizarre. Consider, for example, a fight between Jonah Hill and Jillian Bell that plays up an element of sexual tension. Then there's Ice Cube, who has never been used more perfectly than here. 22 Jump Street's best scene features his reaction shot, and it's priceless.

The movie picks up where its predecessor, 21 Jump Street (a spoof-adaptation of the TV series of the same name), left off. Undercover mismatched buddy cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are sent to the new headquarters of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) at 22 Jump Street. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to head off to college and bust the drug dealers responsible for a young woman's death. While on campus, they begin to lose focus on their goal when Schmidt hooks up with an attractive co-ed (Amber Stevens) and Jenko finds fulfillment playing football alongside his new best friend, Zook (Wyatt Russell).

22 Jump Street suffers from a little too much reliance on a narrative that isn't all that interesting. At nearly two hours, the film feels overlong with parts of the final half-hour in particular seeming protracted. The movie's action sequences, while often choreographed with tongue in cheek, add to the padding. Early in the proceedings, there's a scene in which Schmidt and Jenko navigate the top of a moving truck. Although intended as a parody of Fast and Furious-style stunts, this scene (and a couple of others) isn't clever enough to work on that level.

Beneath all its satirical, self-aware trappings, 22 Jump Street is first and foremost a buddy film, just as its predecessor was. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum slide back into their roles like no time has passed. Their chemistry is smoother here than in 21 Jump Street, perhaps as a result of the actors becoming more comfortable with each other over the passage of time. Ice Cube, deliciously overplaying the "angry black captain" role, steals every scene in which he appears; Lord and Miller cannily provide him with just the right amount of screen time. The newcomers - Amber Stevens, Wyatt Russell, and Peter Stormare (as - what else? - the big bad guy) - don't leave much of an impression, but that's not surprising in a movie of this sort.

The end credits sequence is worth staying for. In addition to featuring obvious digs at cross-marketing and merchandising, it pokes fun at just about everything that Hollywood does wrong when it comes to sequels. As envisioned here, 23 Jump Street is only the beginning of where the franchise goes next.

22 Jump Street is of a kind with its predecessor. Both movies have similar tones, like strengths, and comparable weaknesses. Lord and Miller seem to be working from the premise that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." 21 Jump Street was a modest box office success so it might have been imprudent to change things at this time. Consequently, for those who saw the 2012 production, it's an easy call whether to return to theaters for this one. 22 Jump Street doesn't do anything sufficiently different for it to earn or lose fans.

22 Jump Street (United States, 2014)

Run Time: 1:52
U.S. Release Date: 2014-06-13
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Content, Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1