Comedy relies on two main factors: originality and shock. The necessity of these two vital characteristics to make the genre truly vibrant and, well, comedic, has rendered comedy sequels ineffective and even embarrassing (let’s not get started on “The Hangover” sequels), for the very definition of a sequel and the very definition of these two traits are near oxymorons.
“22 Jump Street” is hyperaware of this in a self-consciously ironic way, and it is a successful and hilarious comedy sequel because of this awareness. It takes notes from the missteps of past comedy sequels, and it steers away, all while pointing a jesting finger at them.
The beautiful bromance that is sweeping across Hollywood between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum returns in all its bro-hugging and bickering glory as Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) trade in the high school lockers from “21 Jump Street” for cliche college essentials such as bean bag chairs and shower caddies. They are sent undercover to MC State in search of the supplier of a new drug called WHYPHY — pronounced wi-fi, which creates some confusion for Jenko when he is told that wi-fi is available all over campus — which caused a student’s death. Jenko quickly becomes BFFs with the school’s quarterback, Zook (Wyatt Russell), and becomes an all-star in the frat world, to the chagrin of Schmidt, who instead falls in with the art crowd, where he meets and engages in a relationship with the charming and sweet Maya (Amber Stevens).
It’s roughly the same plot as the first film, which is a further source of humor rather than a drawback, as the characters say numerous times something along the lines of, “Just do exactly what you did the first time — it is exactly the same case.” Along with other references to the constructed nature of the film — such as mentions of the bigger budget this film had than the first — these are funny for a little while but lead to one of the film’s only downsides, which is that the self-conscious irony gets a bit too heavy-handed as the film runs.
The duo of Hill and Tatum, however, is even better in the sequel, and the relationship between the two characters is a more prominent feature in “22” — a smart choice, since the dynamic between the pair is a significant source of the franchise’s success. They become more than simply partners and act as a legitimate couple, which leads to humorous double-meanings like a dramatic conversation about how they should maybe investigate different people or a misunderstanding of the word “partners” during a therapist intervention. It gives the characters and the partnership more depth and provides a realistic portrait of romantic relationships, despite it simply being a bromance.
Just as directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller — who are on a serious roll with recent releases of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street” — were able to capture high school more effectively than simply relying on Hollywood cliches in the first installment, this film showcases college in a much more realistic light than usual. This accurate depiction is significantly more comedically effective than the blown-out partying and sex scenes rampant in most flicks of the genre. Yes, there is partying, alcohol and hookups, but it is notably toned down, and the simpler facets of college, such as strange floormates, overly intellectual professors, shared co-ed bathrooms (Schmidt: “I’m not going to take a dump the entire time we’re here”), creepy roommates that interfere with personal business and encounters with your significant other’s parents (hands down, the best scene of the movie, featuring the uproarious Ice Cube), give the movie its charm.
Despite the odds against a successful comedy sequel, “22 Jump Street” manages to remain fresh. The credit sequence suggests dozens of more ridiculous sequels, and, at this point, no one would really mind if that became a reality.
Contact Taran Moriates at [email protected].