22 Jump Street: Movie Man Jackson

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“Ladies, nobody gave a s*** about the Jump Street reboot but you got lucky.”

What is the next step after successfully assimilating into high school, and stopping a drug outbreak? Doing the same thing in college. 22 Jump Street starts off exactly as pointed to at the end of its predecessor, in which Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) mentions that our heroes Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are going to college for their next mission. Sounds cool, expect it is of the online variety.

It does not take long for this to change though. A new drug known as WHYPHY is threatening to run rampant on a nearby campus, forcing the tandem to go undercover again amidst younger people. Their partnership, once unbreakable, begins to show signs of fracture when college clearly seems to be more up Jenko’s alley. To infiltrate the dealers and find the supplier once more, they will have to be on the same page.

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Going to try and keep this relatively short and simple. 22 Jump Street is definitely more of the same. Following a similar setup to 21 Jump Street with only the mildest of plot tweaks and flip flops, it will not win any awards for originality. But is that important here? No, not at all!

Once again, and it is ad nauseam at this point, the film knows what it is. It’s a sequel that probably shouldn’t even exist must like the first, but it does. As Deputy Hardy (Nick Offerman) outlines within the confines of the film, the first assignment (movie) was successful, which means more money has to be poured into the next assignment (sequel) to make it bigger and more substantial. It may be a rehash, but this is how these things go.

It is this meta-ness and self-referential humor that this installment brings to its arsenal once again, poking fun at the absurdity of the premise, the existence of sequels, and even Hollywood itself. Eventually, this reminder that everyone is in on the joke does wear a bit thin after a while in my opinion, but it is a fabric of the franchise.

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Even with the referential humor which is pretty funny itself, 22 Jump Street works because it is just funny consistently from beginning to end, which is the first goal for any comedy. Sure, some laughs are bigger than others (and there are some big ones), but the mild laughs keep investment in the movie and keeps hold of attention. And it is not just the meta humor either. Tons of physical gags, verbal banter, and reactionary comedy work just as well, if not better.

The constant hilariousness can be attributed to three people: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Ice Cube. As a duo, Hill and Tatum as Schmidt and Jenko have something special in the way of chemistry, like two basketball players utilizing the pick and roll so effectively because they know where the other is almost always going to be. The movie does allow for the two to be separated at times, and it is during these times where both get to shine respectively in their given situations. Also, the movie delves more into their relationship and why it doesn’t always work, giving Jenko and Schmidt character aspects that the audience can relate to.

As a benefit to everyone, Ice Cube’s role is definitely larger in this sequel. He is back as the stereotypical angry black captain, spitting his profane insults and mean mugging faces to our favorite tandem, which is just as gut-busting as before. This time however, he must become more a part of the mission, for support reasons and personal reasons, the latter resulting in arguably the funniest moment in the entire film. The rest of the cast comes off as more miss than hit. Not to say that they are completely devoid of amusing moments, but they are more one-note, compared to the supporting characters of Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, and Brie Larson from the first.

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Though the premise is the same, it has been improved upon. Directors Christopher Miller & Phil Lord make sure that this sequel is tighter, mainly in its pacing and presentation. This movie never drags and moves along at a brisk pace. Additionally, the action sequences look like more attention was spent on them, and they too are spaced throughout as opposed to the last third of runtime, giving the movie a true comedy-action feel. Depending on how many times the trailer has been seen, it may make the events of the movie slightly predictable, so keep that in mind.

All in all though, 22 Jump Street is easily the best comedy of the year to this point simply because at the core it succeeds in making you laugh, and laugh a lot. Can’t ask for much more.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to forbes.com, acesshowbiz.com, and movieplusnews.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson.

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21 Jump Street: Movie Man Jackson

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“Are you ready for a lifetime of being absolutely badass mother****ers?”

High school. You may have peaked in it, or you may have suffered through it. At any rate, once you are done, you never are forced to go back…unless it is part of your job. This is the situation Jenko and Schmidt find themselves in during 21 Jump Street. Way back in 2005, Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) were but a few of the average high school stereotypical students. Jenko is the average dumb jock, while Schmidt is a socially inept but smart dude.  Being on complete opposite ends of the high school food chain, it isn’t exactly shocking to see these two never interact. The off times they do, it goes as one would expect.

Enter 2012, and the two find each other in the police academy. Instead of remaining in high school mode, both end up helping the other with weaknesses they struggle with and ultimately forming a bond that leads to their graduation. After an odd mishap one day on patrol as bike cops, the duo is reassigned to the 21 Jump Street division, a program revitalized from the 80’s. Led under the direction of the always-angry Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), this tag-team is assigned to go undercover as high school students in an effort to snuff out a new drug known as HFS. Sounds easy enough, but 2012 in high school is nothing like 2005.

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If you have never seen the TV series sharing the same name of this film, do not fret. In all honesty, the only link the show and its remake share is the title. The 2012 version of 21 Jump Street eschews the seriousness and drama from its predecessor and opts for a lighter and humorous take. From start to finish, laughs are to be had at a pretty consistent clip.

Within the first few minutes, it is evident that this movie never takes itself too seriously. Whether it be through a simple moment of the main characters locking eyes over expertly timed music cues reminiscent of iconic 80’s movies, or expecting the obvious explosion to occur after shooting numerous flammable objects, it pokes fun at itself, the implausibility of the scenario, and staples of the buddy cop genre. The film also gets commended for going in an unexpected direction. At its core, I got the message of change in the fact that nothing stays the same and what was once cool can easily become outdated. It would have been real easy, and lazy, to keep Jenko as the ultra-suave and straight man while sticking Schmidt as the loser with no chance at progression. Thankfully, it goes a different route.

This “meta-ness” alluded to previously extends to the duo themselves. The stereotypes that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum embody here are in a way what others think about them in real life. Hill to a lot of people is or at least comes off as an insecure and occasionally douchey guy, and Tatum for the longest time (perhaps still) was only thought of as eye candy with not much to offer anywhere else. Maybe I am looking too much into this, and if I am so be it. It’s just something that worked into my mind when watching.

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Being able and willing to take shots at yourself is well and good, but the characters and the actors playing those said characters still have to be interesting enough to make it matter. Luckily, they are in 21 Jump Street. Jonah Hill has proven his comedic ability previously before this, but he is in top-notch form here. Not so much a shock to see him score so many laughs, but it was refreshing to see his character with a fair amount of heft. His character allows for more connection with the audience, as many have been there at some point in time.

Channing Tatum is the real revelation in the film from a comedic standpoint. He gets many great lines and serves them up with exceptional delivery. He is really shaping as a versatile guy in Hollywood, something I never would have thought possible during his roles in Coach Carter and Step Up. As a duo, their chemistry was infectious and appeared natural, which is a must for buddy cop films.

The supporting cast is nothing to scoff at though. Rob Riggle, Dave Franco, Ellie Kemper, Brie Larson, DeRay Davis, and a few others bring humorous moments to varying degrees. But Ice Cube as the police captain steals the show as Captain Dickson every time he appears on screen. Based on a stereotype like Tatum and Hill’s characters, he is consistently angry throughout the movie in the most over-the-top way. His delivery and timing is flawless, and whenever he spars with Jenko and Schmidt is a riot.

As a whole, the dialogue and writing is pretty strong, if occasionally overdependent on the F bomb. For the most part it works more often than not, and it it pretty realistic of what is heard in most high schools. There were just a few times where it came across as a crutch, but it is to be expected with a R-rated comedy. What wasn’t expected in the way it was carried out happened to be the last third of the movie. Unlike the previous thirds, the last 30 or so minutes serves more as an action movie. Not that there is not still comedy to be had, but the tone obviously shifts and it is a bit jarring to see blood spraying and bodies dropping.

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More of a re-imagining than an remake/reboot, the film incarnation of 21 Jump Street is good entertainment through and through, bolstered by self-referential humor and a strong (covalent) bond between main characters. Maybe going back to high school isn’t such a bad thing.

Grade: B

Photo credits go to sonypictures.com, movieforums.com, & totalfilm.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson.