REVIEW: ’22 Jump Street’ is something cool and knows it

22 jump streetRemember March 2012?

It wasn’t that long ago if you think about it.

Not long since director-writing duo Chris Miller and Phil Lord had nothing but “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and a couple of episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” under their belt. Not long since the world was marveling at how much weight Jonah Hill had lost and Channing Tatum was the go-to guy for the male lead in the Romantic Drama of the Month Club.

It hasn’t been long since “21 Jump Street” was the questionable film reboot of an 80s TV series no one was asking for.

But on the weekend of March 16, I and many others reluctantly shuffled into theaters (the Hollywood 12 in Jonesboro, Ark.) to behold the Sony film. Because, why not? It was that week’s only wide release and was sandwiched between the bomb that was “John Carter” and the launch of the “Hunger Games” phenomenon (is that the right word?).

Two years, $201 million in gross and many career renaissances later, I found myself driving through the rain and back streets of Indianapolis to hopefully be in time for a preview screening of this movie:

 

I’m grateful I made it.

“22 Jump Street” is a movie audiences are now looking forward to. Not just because its predecessor was shockingly more than good. But because the talent involved have spent the last two years becoming household names through films including “The Lego Movie,” “White House Down,” “Magic Mike” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Expectations and hopes have been thrust into the hands of everyone involved with the sequel and the movie acknowledges that by proudly saying “bring it on.”

“22 Jump Street” is the funniest movie I’ve seen since “The Lego Movie” in February, which was also written and directed by Lord and Miller. I don’t think anyone has ever been able to balance the challenge of making family and adult comedies and Lord and Miller have build that condo and are waiting for others to start paying rent.

What made “21” so memorable was its eagerness to embrace the ridiculousness its own story, lamp shading it from beginning to end while deconstructing the action movie genre. That’s on display now and pushed to another level as Lord and Miller, in a class of their own, poke fun at their own franchise in as fine as you can, straight from the “Previously on ’21 Jump Street’…” episodic opening to possibly the most memorable end-credit sequence.

Hill and Tatum continue to build what may be the Bromance of the Century as their characters (you don’t care what their names are and neither do I) go to college to solve what they think is the exact same case they worked on in “21.” That’s really where the similarities with the original end.

Well, Hill finds another love interest (the impressive Amber Stevens) while Tatum finds a friend that threatens to destroy the Bromance.

But I swear that’s where the similarities end.

The story line of a friendship on the brink actually had some surprising resonance for me. Maybe it’s because I’m three weeks from finishing college for good and that has me in a reflective mood, but it was oddly comforting to watch the main “Jump Street” duo go through things I’ve lived through more than once in the last five years.

It’s never dramatic (this is franchise that depicts five levels of a drug trip for crying out loud), but it reaches the right amount of melodramatics to make you believe the characters have learned something.

The only real aspect where the sequel missteps is with the utilization of one of its villains, who isn’t around enough to care about when everything hits the fan.

Even though it has a little more of a budget over the $42 million of its predecessor, the move doesn’t overextend itself with a gluttony of action sequences (but it loves creating a massive Spring Break party).

Lord, Miller, Tatum and Hill (and the more included Ice Cube) didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken. They just applied a trippy new coat of pain, acknowledged it while land all but a few jokes and comfortably fit in some new passengers.

 

 

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About Daniel McFadin

Writer for NBCSports.com. Former Sporting News intern. Graduated from IUPUI in Indianapolis with a master in sports journalism in 2014 and from Arkansas State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. Originally from Lewisville, Texas, now in Fort Worth. Ask me if I like Star Wars. I dare you.
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