Schmidt and Jenko are back, and we should all rejoice. 22 JUMP STREET starts out every bit as funny as 21 JUMP STREET was, and then keeps upping its game. Once more co-written by co-star Jonah Hill (Schmidt), it is an inspired bit of whip-smart silliness that refuses to take itself seriously. On the other hand, while the improbable perfection that is the chemistry between Hill and co-star Channing Tatum (Jenko) provides a limitless supply of humor from subtle to pratfall, the emotionally dense, complex, and ultimately absurd relationship between Schmidt and Jenko is given a solid respect. And so is the audience, with a script rife with self-references sending up buddy films, sequels, and the fact that neither star looks college-age.
The pair have landed in college where they are tasked with hunting down the supplier of a new synthetic drug that is threatening to sweep the nation’s college campuses. Yes, it’s the same plot as before, and the film is quick to point that out, as well as noting that as a result of the first operation’s success, the budget for this one operation is bigger when it doesn’t need to be, and that the office where their commanding officer, played by Ice Cube, works looks like an ice cube.
The plotting is solid, the dialogue fast and funny, and the story simultaneously makes fun of itself and wryly slips a few fast ones by us. Sort of like the Lamborghini that Jenko dreams about, or the way he scampers up and down buildings without regard to stairs or elevators. That’s all fine and good, but it’s those two leads that elevates this from a good film into a great one. The contrast of Jenko’s semi-awareness of his own lack of mental agility and Schmidt’s sweaty petulance about his own lack of physical prowess form the basis for the magic.
Still in the throes of their high-school bromance, the college atmosphere, including Jenko’s new bromance with a muscular blonde frat-boy of a soul mate (Wyatt Russell), and Schmidt’s scoring with a gorgeous art major (Amber Stevens) cause the undercover cops to drift apart and question their relationship. A heart-to-heart conversation after a frat blow-out, where two have had entirely different experiences, involves whether they should start investigating other people, while leaving their own joint investigation an open sort of relationship. Yeah, it’s funny, but there’s also something wistful about the way they face up to the changes that college has made in them.
In other words, who cares if they solve the case, can’t these two crazy kids just find a way to make it work?
22 JUMP STREET has a stellar cast of cameos, and Schmidt taking an octopus to the face, and a taser somewhere lower. Plus it takes the high(er) road, even during its interlude at Spring Break. Never shy about being profane, it’s also never lazy enough to confuse gross-out with funny when it comes to making us laugh. A lot.