In hindsight, the studio executive with the stupid idea to turn TV's dead property 21 Jump Street into a film looks like a genius. Because, seriously, did anyone think it was going to be good? Weren't we all supposed to be dead-tired of the rebooting and sequelizing by that point?
That person will also be sending cookie bouquets to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller for life. The team, whose weird take on 21 involved the relentless mocking of itself and whose precision-goofiness directorial style gave Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum the opportunity to become a legendary comedy team overnight, have returned with a sequel that works on every level: as action film, as buddy cop comedy, as stupid-smart college picture, as gay rom-com, as conceptual prank, and as the destruction of all future sequels. It’s funnier, faster, and crazier than 21 and it accomplishes this on a near-identical framework.
That framework calls attention to itself right away, as partners Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are given a drug bust assignment mirroring the one they tackled in 21, only this time they go undercover to college instead of high school. Their budget? Bigger than ever. Their task? Get the dealer. Their tactics? According to the emphatic demands of the police chief (Nick Offerman) and the captain (Ice Cube), “do exactly what you did last time.” You get it.
To say more would be to merely report on specific gags, none of which deserve to be spoiled. But those gags come at breakneck speed, both verbally and visually, while Hill (as the scolding parent and scorned lover) and Tatum (as the dog from Up) goof on their age, the wisdom of extending the joke, their own involvement in the corporate re-branding of a not-so-beloved TV show, all cop movie tropes, and their own pushy brand of male intimacy.
But as charismatic and chemistry-conducting as the stars are, this is Lord and Miller’s show, their chance to lay waste to a lucrative business model without sacrificing a penny. The sight gags come from Benny Hill and Harmony Korine and the bizarre insistence on calling wicked attention to its own copycat-ness is the kind of baller move you make when you know how good you are. They don't just repeat themselves, they become the idiotic Platonic ideal of repetition. They’re as inside as they can be but they shred it like they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. And if/when 23 Jump Street arrives in theaters (according to this film, condos with that name are already under construction), something tells me they'll come in like a wrecking ball and do it all over again.