Jenko: Something cool!
I was most certainly amongst the naysayers when 21 JUMP STREET, another seemingly unnecessary big screen adaptation of a television series that no one really cared about, rolled into theatres in 2012. Even when it came out, I found it amusing but I was not so swayed as to think it was worth all the hype that came with it. Like it or not though, it was a big hit and there was no denying the chemistry between stars, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. A return was inevitable; in fact, it was teased at the end of the first film. And now, here we are with 22 JUMP STREET, and in a very refreshing turn of events, something unavoidable is actually irresistible.
Under the helm of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the same directors who made the first instalment, and also the same directors who gave us this year’s other hysterical hit, THE LEGO MOVIE, 22 JUMP STREET is a very self-aware film experience. There is no hiding the fact that after the success of their first mission (read as success of the first film), Shmidt and Jenko (Hill and Tatum) and the entire Jump Street crew (once again including Ice Cube as their commanding officer) have now been tasked with repeating that success. And repeating is precisely what they are expected to do, literally. By subversively mocking the Hollywood movie making machine, the pressure is on these two bumblers to not sway too far from the formula, in fear of losing those that already love their antics just the way they are. And so, off to college they go to bust another underground drug ring before it’s too late, while poking fun at sequel conventions every step of the way.
Turn the lights down; it’s time to get bromantic! Aside from a few obvious digs at how old these guys look for college kids (Hill is actually 30 and Tatum turned 34 this year), the big joke, and main plot line for that matter, is the bromantic nature of the Schmidt / Jenko relationship. In the first film, Schmidt adapted easily to high school life while Jenko surprisingly suffered through it. This time around, the tables have turned and Jenko finds himself connecting with the beer-guzzling, football-throwing frat bros in a way he and Schmidt have never connected before. Schmidt meanwhile, as he spends less and less time working directly with Jenko, finds himself forced to deal with his insecurities and fear of being alone. Of course, all of this is hilarious and not the least bit sappy, but it is still genuine and honest. Longer term partnerships go through this exact kind of identity crisis. The fact that Lord and Miller find a way to meaningfully explore the growth of this relationship without sacrificing any humour speaks greatly of their directorial strength and also demonstrates just how much Hill and Tatum get it and each other.
22 JUMP STREET is that rare sequel that learns from the mistakes made in the first film and actually builds from there to create its own distinct identity. Realistically speaking, most people who flock to the Jump Street movies have probably never seen an episode of the 80’s television show in their lives and it doesn’t matter in the least. 22 JUMP STREET plays its own game and is more about these two guys and their crazy adventures going forward than about anything that came before it. And as the closing credits tease Jump Streets 23 and up, I realized that, while I never wanted any Jump Streets to begin with, I now cannot wait for 38 Jump Street: Dance Academy.