Sequels are a dicey business, where a flavor too similar to the original can breed audience contempt. But in 22 Jump Street, co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller playfully make replication their creative launching pad.
Lovable cops Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill), following the make-it-up-as-we-go-along style of law enforcement, are still basking in the glow of having caught the high school baddies in 21 Jump Street. When they botch up a higher level mission, their supervisor, Dickson (Ice Cube), as punishment, sends them to execute more academic, drug-busting field work at a local college. Dickson barks, “I want you to do exactly what you did last time,” thereby setting up the framework for a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sequel.
This is a Saturnine directive, representing the duty, attention to detail, repetition and persistence that helped the Jenko-Schmidt team catch the criminals the first time. Now, though, applied to the duo’s sophomore effort, that very formula will also ideally bring in the real-life, ticket-buying crowds.
The plot of 22 Jump Street doesn’t stray far from what came before: find the campus drug distributors and zero in on the suppliers. But characters who practice meticulous adherence to an original plan turn into automatons, sequel be damned. The Uranian spark of originality, to offset the mandated grind, comes mainly through Schmidt’s unknowingly crossing a boundary involving a Dickson family member (Amber Stevens). And, even once the transgression’s been revealed, Schmidt maintains his personal defiance to the end.
There’s the requisite action, sure, but this time around most of the pleasure lies in watching the interplay between revered, copycat standardization (Saturn) and breathless, revolutionary tactics (Uranus). Both factions yield laughs, and the closing credits continue the mischief of what can only be termed formulaic originality.
Astrology Film Rating: ♄♅ (Saturn, Uranus)