To balance out all that romance I needed some comedy featuring an all time bromance. Is it too soon to call Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum an all time bromance? Maybe there’s a Buzzfeed listicle to be made there.
Confession: until this weekend I hadn’t seen 21 Jump Street (2012). I revealed that to my roommate who is used to me putting off movies but insisted I put it (and 22 Jump Street (2014)) at the top of the list so here we are. I don’t know why I put it off. Maybe it’s just that I never feel like paying to see a buddy cop movie in theaters so I wait until it’s convenient. I put off End of Watch (2012, was on Netflix), I put off 48 Hrs. (1982, still on Netflix), and I put off these Jump Street movies.
Confession two: I still haven’t seen Magic Mike (2012) (or 10 Years (2011) or The Vow (2012) or Haywire (2012), but I have seen the last 45 minutes of White House Down (2013)). I did like Channing Tatum in Side Effects (2011, it’s on Netflix), so it’s not like I hate him, I guess he just doesn’t tickle me in the way that, say, Loretta does. But he’s in Tarantino’s upcoming The Hateful Eight (2015) as well as the Coen Brothers’ upcoming Hail, Caeser! (2016), so he’s not, not killing it. It’s just that for every Foxcatcher (2014) he’s got a Jupiter Ascending (2015), unfortunately.
Jonah Hill, on the other hand, I’ve seen everything he’s done. Dude’s hilarious, maybe someone I’d pick as one of the five people I’d like to have dinner with, and becoming an excellent actor. If he’s in a movie I’m down to watch it.
I’ll admit, after watching 21 Jump Street followed closely by 22 Jump Street, I feel like I owe Channing Tatum a binge watching session. He’s obviously got the chops to do more than dance around and look charming, even if he gets to do it a lot in these two movies.
What sets 21 Jump Street apart from other buddy cop movies is that it operates on different levels and each level stands on its own. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who later went on to direct the low key very complex The Lego Movie (2014)) are to thank for the layered plot featuring a stoner movie tucked inside a high school movie tucked inside a buddy cop comedy with a twist of parody. Of course, all of this is a nod to the TV show 21 Jump Street that aired on Fox from 1987-1991, updated with today’s high school tropes and on screen graphics to enhance high scenes, plus plenty of meta jokes and callbacks to the original series.
The real genius is that Lord and Miller don’t just rely on the situation for comedy, they baked the characters’ personalities (backed by the actors’ real life personalities) into the plot for nice returns.
Jonah Hill plays the awkward, nerdy Morton Schmidt while Channing Tatum plays the dumb jock Greg Jenko. After high school the two take separate but inevitable paths to the Metro City Police Academy and decide to be best friends to help each other through it. They barely graduate and end up on the predictably lame park bicycle patrol where they stumble across a group of drug dealers and screw up the arrest.
Back at the office, the Deputy Chief (Nick Offerman) figures they’d be perfect for 21 Jump Street, a defunct undercover division of the force guided by Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). As part of their assignment to get to know the students and find the supplier, Schmidt and Jenko are given identities exactly like their high school identities, only they get switched; Jenko takes on AP Chemistry, Schmidt becomes quite the thespian paired with Molly (Brie Larson), and hilarity ensues.
Rob Riggle plays an on edge high school track coach looking for the standout track transfer (if he can figure out which one that is), and
Dave Franco is a stoner/dealer/hipster/graphic designer kid who cares about the environment (cause it’s cool to care about such things now).
Really, a lot of the jokes from 2012 about environmentalists and hipsters and how sensitive kids are still hold up. Jenko’s phrasing lands every time, though we’re officially done with phrasing as of last year, and the halo poop emoji for a drug logo is just good shit.
As much as I enjoyed 21 Jump Street I may have liked 22 Jump Street more. Whereas 21 Jump Street is great for its plot and how it unravels, 22 Jump Street is flat out funnier and takes the meta humor on Jump Street, action movies, and sequels to new heights.
One of the better running gags in 21 Jump Street involves explosions not happening when you would expect in an action movie, then 5 minutes into the sequel there’s an explosion — shout out to bigger budgets.
After Schmidt and Jenko screw up in the 22 Jump Street opener, Nick Offerman returns and rehashes the opener from 21 Jump Street, breaking down the narrative walls (or rebuilding the same ones) and setting up a super meta sequel set in college. He says nobody had faith in the 21 Jump Street reboot but they got lucky and assuming they do the exact same thing with twice the budget they should get twice the payoff. In reality, the budget for 21 Jump Street was $45M and made $201M, so the budget for 22 Jump Street was upped to $65M and made $331M. It wasn’t quite twice the payoff but they made more profit and with that same self awareness the sequel manages to improve on the original.
Riggle and Franco make cameo appearances, but increased screen time for Ice Cube plus supporting roles from Amber Stevens as Maya and Jillian Bell as Maya’s roommate Mercedes equal a comedic upgrade. Their description of college life today is even more on point than the high school they create. And they shit on improv and slam poetry at the same time which is so personal but so hilarious. Over two movies covering high school and college I think they’ve been able to make fun almost of every kind of person at various stages in life. Here’s where I shout out Ellie Kemper as the high school AP Chemistry instructor and Patton Oswalt as the college History professor for their turns as typical idealist teachers.
In their quest to get in close with the college dealers and find the supplier, Schmidt and Jenko actually settle into their intended personas and Jenko becomes a standout college football wide receiver with the help of the star quarterback, Zook (Wyatt Russell).
Even though phrasing is done, Jenko gets a lot of double entendre and speech misnomers in. He and Zook set up a lot of awkward sports jokes and since they make such a great team, Schmidt is able to put the moves on Maya, and the cops mutually decide to check out other people. Their undercover cop problems even gets them a free therapy session when they get mistaken as gay partners. Somehow, as in 21 Jump Street, the duo keep falling up and get steadily closer to breaking the case, eventually leading to a quintessential college Spring Break trip.
In the end, Phil Lord and Chris Miller should be able to do whatever they want, I have blind trust in them now. Unfortunately that appears to only be sequels or spin offs for The Lego Movie and 23 Jump Street. Channing Tatum edges toward a box office draw for me, but his next two films for acclaimed directors will be big in determining how high he can go.
Magic Mike XXL (2015) can’t fail.