'22 Jump Street' is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is

Columbia Pictures

By Conrad Foreman, Daily Arts Writer
Published June 18, 2014

If you’re using this article as a “see it vs. don’t see it” guide, you’re urged now to not see this movie in theaters. Should you not heed this advice, “22 Jump Street” will spend the better part of 112 minutes making fun of you for dropping your presidents on a sequel.

22 Jump Street

Columbia Pictures & MGM
Rave and Quality 16

The second installment of the franchise places Jenko (Channing Tatum, “Magic Mike”) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill, “Superbad”) in practically the same scenario as the first film. Using the same identities, they go undercover, this time in college, to identify and destroy the distribution of a new deadly drug.

While the jokes of its predecessor are far superior to the repetitive, lazy writing of this follow-up, where this movie really fails is in the characters’ relationships. The storyline with Channing Tatum and his new frat bro fizzles quickly and without a cohesive conclusion, as does Jonah Hill’s new love interest. “21” included convincing acting and relatable character arcs. Rather than build on the clever combination of silly and serious from the first film, the sequel plays for easy laughs (which it doesn’t get), constantly calling attention to itself as a bad film, as if that excuses the badness (it doesn’t).

There are instances where postmodern self-reference can produce hilarious, or otherwise brilliant works. However, the phrase “beating a dead horse” seems to perfectly describe the appalling abuse of self-reflexivity in “22 Jump Street.” There are a dozen jokes about the inflated budget, though the budget for this one actually wasn’t that much bigger, each less funny than the one previous. The constant overt statements by characters about how “22” isn’t the same as “21” is even more annoying than if they had actually played out the exact same plot.

Right from the opening scene, during which Tatum and Hill approach an undercover situation in a bizarrely idiotic attempt that diminishes the film’s legitimacy (aren’t they supposed to have learned something in from the first film?), “22 Jump Street” proves that it is a film that ought not to have been made. However, Hill and Tatum are popular, and the initial film was surprisingly good, so “22” will certainly make its bones at the box office.

The film does have its bright spots: Jonah Hill’s slam poetry scene is giggly, Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson) will slay any “Parks and Rec” fan and Seth Rogen has a hilarious cameo during the credits. Channing Tatum, however, is trapped in a tired “find yourself” storyline (one of many college clichés this film eagerly leeches onto). His scene early on with Patton Oswalt (“Ratatouille”) is funny enough, but Oswalt never appears again and no satisfying resolution comes from his soul-searching.

Ice Cube (“Boyz N The Hood”) plays a more prominent role in this go-round; he’s entertaining as always, but the main gag they pull with his character goes on for too long and carries to ridiculous lengths that cheapen the comedy of the whole situation.

Sequels are easy to hate because many seem to be ill-disguised grabs at money rather than art. “22 Jump Street” is even more evidence of this problem.