22 Jump Street: Too Much Self-Awareness Can Be A Bad Thing

Mix Beverly Hills Cop, Animal House and The Breakfast Club and what do you get? Not 22 Jump Street. As valiantly as it tries, 22 Jump Street unfortunately does not stand up as a comparison to any of the films it tries to emulate.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back as Officers Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko, in their follow up to 2012’s hugely successful 21 Jump Street. Adhering to the typical cop show formula, this latest version takes off where the last Hill/Tatum caper left off. Schmidt and Jenko are back in the Jump Street program and, like the original, are tapped to pose as students in order to investigate drug activity at Metropolitan City State College. Ice Cube and Nick Offerman return as Captain Dickson and Deputy Chief Hardy, respectively. Dickson is in charge of the duo at the now 22 Jump Street, named so for its location across the street from its previous incarnation. With a fancy new office and an unlimited budget, he instructs the pair to find the supplier of WhyPhy, a drug that contains both Adderall and Ecstasy and which is believed to be responsible for the death of a MC State student. At times, Hill and Tatum amuse and entertain (Tatum’s reaction to a certain Hill indiscretion is priceless), but they also disappoint with tired and recycled jokes.

Hill and Tatum have exceptional chemistry and are spot on in doing what they do best. Ice Cube is solid and Rob Riggle is back in top form as Mr. Walters. By far the standout in the cast, though, is Jillian Bell. Best known for her role in the Comedy Central series Workaholics, she shines as Mercedes, the perfectly deadpan roommate of Hill’s love interest, Maya.

22 Jump Street brings into question Hollywood’s inclination of recreating television series into movies, which as Jonah Hill professes, is a bad idea. So what do you do when the entire premise of your movie is based on an idea whose day is long over? Make a sequel. Sure, why not? While well-known exceptions exist, sequels are usually considered inferior. To make a sequel of a movie that at its origin is a bad idea is either bold or stupid. 22 Jump Street filmmakers make it their mission to create a spoof that spoofs the original spoof of a television show. In and of itself a lofty goal, it’s not clear where the idea ended on the bold/stupid continuum. The crux of the problem may be that the films they aspire to be are not caricatures of themselves, but rather they are solid films that stand on their own. I’m all for making a movie that tries to capture the absurdity of its own existence, but save for the thoroughly enjoyable end credits and random bright spots, 22 Jump Street doesn’t achieve its goal.

Where does it excel? Bromance. In stellar fashion, Tatum and Hill show the intimacy that can blossom between two men, even if awkward. With a growing list of bromance-crazed films that are successfully rivaling chick flicks, it feels inappropriate to disparage the progression of such a phenomenon. I must admit that as much as I could happily watch Die Hard over and over and over, it’s refreshing to see films show another side of the male species.

22 Jump Street is a reminder that it’s time for women to step up and show our other side. Sure, we’ve had Buffy, but we’ve also had to endure Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry as Catwoman. Charlie’s Angels? Close, but sadly the average Jane cannot relate to Farrah or Cameron. Scarlett Johansson kicks ass as an Avenger, but we clearly need more Sydney Bristow’s. If 22 Jump Street does one thing, it shows us ladies that we need to pick up our game.