TMN Movie Review: "22 Jump Street"

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

Rating: R
Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: June 13, 2014
Directed by: Phil Lord / Christopher Miller
Genre: Action / Comedy / Crime

"22 Jump Street," the follow-up to the 2012 hit comedy "21 Jump Street," provides plenty of laughs, an action-packed plot and some surprisingly deep commentary about college life. Returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller direct this sequel, which continues the story of narcotics officers Schmidt and Jenko. This time around, they infiltrate a college campus. Their goal is to stop a drug ring headed by the elusive dealer known simply as Ghost. While Schmidt and Jenko adapt to the college environment and work to carry out their assignment, they experience plenty of humorous situations to keep viewers laughing, numerous opportunities to mature as individuals, and many events that help them learn what makes a partnership strong.

"22 Jump Street" brings Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum back to the roles of officers Schmidt and Jenko respectively. After their work infiltrating drug rings at the high school level and failing as street narcotics officers, they are back working for Officer Dickson who has the perfect assignment for them to infiltrate a college campus. The actors' chemistry has only grown since their roles in "21 Jump Street" and really brings to life their metamorphosis as a team with Schmidt's layers of geekiness and Jenko's  history as a jock forming a foundation for solid comedic performances that never get stale. Rapper Ice Cube returns to the role of Schmidt and Tatum's boss, Captain Dickson, with a zeal and zest that picks up the comedy right where "21 Jump Street" left off. Officer Dickson gets extended screen time in this sequel, and he does not disappoint with his combination of surly straight talk and gruff ambition. The film's title refers to Dickson's new office located across the street from his 21 Jump Street digs, and the larger office increases his arrogance, meanness and ambition to drive Schmidt and Hall to succeed.

Dual themes run underneath the comedy lines of "22 Jump Street" to give viewers from a variety of backgrounds something to relate to. Any current or former college students will recognize the numerous stereotypical undergraduate characters and situations. There is a suitably creepy professor, loads of roommate troubles, sexual exploration and spring break antics. Stereotyped characters include poetry- and art-loving Maya, played by Amber Stevens, fraternity and football star Zook, played by Wyatt Russell, tough and sarcastic mean girl Mercedes, played by Jillian Bell, and stoner brothers, played by Keith and Kenny Lucas. Directors Lord and Miller start with these stereotypes and then delve deeper. No one is flat in this film. Each stereotype is the basis for a real, three-dimensional person with unique qualities that push past the stereotype's boundaries. Likewise, quips, actions and props move stereotypical situations along to give the viewer a glimpse of the real work of college: the transition from childhood to adulthood.

The second theme involves Schmidt and Jenko's friendship and partnership. Everyone can relate to friendships troubles, and the officers' evolving partnership follows patterns displayed in typical friendships of all ages, and partnerships in business, romance and life. When Jenko strikes up a friendship with Zook on the football team and moves into the party jock scene on campus, Schmidt feels suitably left out and directs his energy into his own explorations of college life. He is less successful adapting than his jock partner and keeps pushing for more time with Jenko. The audience is taken on an emotional rollercoaster as they watch the ups and downs exhibited by Schmidt as he responds to Jenko's lack of interest and bumbles along incidentally learning a lot about himself in the process. Lord and Miller really direct the film with an eye to this conflict by playing on their own partnership as directors. With the "22 Jump Street" project coming quick on the heels of the duo's intense directing partnership for "The Lego Movie," the pair has plenty of firsthand experience in making partnerships work.

Amidst the comedic situations and college introspection, "22 Jump Street" stays true to its basic plot premise of a pair of narcotics officers working to find and arrest serious drug dealers on campus. Action lovers will not be disappointed with the film's fast-paced action sequences filled with plot twists, special effects and quality stunt work. Viewers who stick around through the closing credits will not be disappointed. The comedy keeps right on coming until the film is finished running. "22 Jump Street" is a testimonial to the fact that not all sequels are disappointments. This is one follow-up that is worth checking out.