I confess that I never watched 21 Jump Street — not the late-’80s cop show with Johnny Depp, not the spoofy movie comedy from 2012 with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. No judgment there — I just didn’t imagine either would be my thing.
So I went into 22 Jump Street open-eyed: Not with low expectations, but rather no expectations. And the result? An unexpectedly laugh-filled two hours of enjoyably wasted time. That’s because 22 Jump Street knows what it is — a craven, ridiculous sequel intended more to make money that achieve art. Indeed, the front quarter of the film is laden down with jokes about how much more expensive everything is — the operations headquarters, the investigation at a college, etc. “As if doubling the budget will double to grosses,” one of the undercover cops (played by Hill and Tatum) smirks.
And that’s the thing: They are, like the audience, always aware they are in a movie. And they have fun. So we do, too.
The plot (as they suggest, stolen directly from 21 Jump) involved these mismatched 30-year-olds posing (ineffectively) as teenagers, this time at Metro City University. Jenko (Tatum) enjoys the college experience — and why wouldn’t he? He’s a stud, a football star, a popular fraternity pledge. Schmidt (Hill), though, is still the lovable loser, the pudgy, nervous kid who creeps people out.
They get a lot of mileage out of the Mutt-and-Jeff combo, with some hilarious riffing on looking like adults, being narcs, etc. Like Judd Apatow movies, there’s a sense that much of this is improvised; unlike Apatow, it doesn’t rely on men sitting around a table constantly one-upping each other in some pot-fueled fantasy of what men talk like. This is a pretension-free film, like the Airplane! movies — the point is simply to chuckle.
And chuckle, guffaw and knee-slap you do, thanks to the enjoyable comic energy between Hill and Tatum, and the bromantic, homoerotic interplay between Tatum and, well, every other man on screen. (Hey, when you have Magic Mike in your movie, you gotta expect some swooning, even by other men.) It’s all in service of the best thing a heartless, money-grubbing summer blockbuster wannabe can be: Worth your time.
Opens in wide release Friday.