Here’s my CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review of 22 JUMP STREET (2014) which went up this weekend at cinemaknifefight.com, your place to read about movies, where you’ll find new movie content posted every day by L.L. Soares, myself, and a very talented staff of writers.
Thanks for reading!
CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: 22 JUMP STREET (2014)
Review by Michael Arruda
(THE SCENE: A college lecture hall filled with young, energetic college students, chatting and socializing, until their professor asks for quiet. Camera pans to the front of the lecture hall and we see that the professor is MICHAEL ARRUDA.)
MICHAEL ARRUDA: All right, we’re ready to begin. Please have your books open to page 22, and we’ll pick up from where we left off last time. (Turns to address camera) Hey, if I have to go undercover at a college campus, there’s no way I’m passing myself off as a student, so I have to pose as a professor. In my case, it’s more like 52 Jump Street, rather than 22.
Welcome everyone to another edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT. I’m Michael Arruda— L.L. Soares is off on another assignment— and this week I’m reviewing the new comedy 22 JUMP STREET, starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, the inevitable sequel to their hit comedy 21 JUMP STREET (2012) which was itself a comedic reboot of the classic hit TV series 21 JUMP STREET (1987-1991) starring Johnny Depp.
STUDENT (raising hand): Excuse me, professor? Who are you talking to?
MA (points to camera): I’m talking to the audience.
STUDENT: I thought we were your audience?
MA: Well, the truth is, I’m not really your professor. I’m really here to review the new comedy 22 JUMP STREET. Care to hear about it?
STUDENT: Why do you think we’re here? This is Film Criticism Class, and today’s movie is 22 JUMP STREET. And you’re our guest speaker.
MA: Why— of course I am! And let’s get right to it then, shall we? (Looks at camera and shrugs).
I liked the movie 21 JUMP STREET well enough, but in all honesty, I wasn’t really into seeing its sequel, today’s movie, 22 JUMP STREET, for the simple reason that most of the time, sequels aren’t very good, and some movies don’t really need sequels, and I’d have to say this is one of them.
But the theater was packed, and so obviously a lot of folks would disagree with me.
STUDENT: I definitely wanted to see 22 JUMP STREET.
MA: Well, good for you. And I would say the majority of the audience were people under the age of 25, so maybe I just don’t fit into the target audience demographic.
Anyway, in 22 JUMP STREET, we find our likable heroes Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) botching a drug arrest and letting the main baddie known as The Ghost (Peter Stormare) get away. As a result, they are sent to 22 Jump Street, the building across the street from 21 Jump Street, where they once more find themselves working for Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who this time sends them off to college, where they will once again work undercover, this time posing as college students in order to find out who is dealing a new controversial drug on campus known as WHYPHY, pronounced “WiFi,” a set-up for one of the movie’s many gags.
While Schmidt befriends a beautiful young art student name Maya (Amber Stevens) in order to learn more about the young woman who died on campus from WHYPHY, Jenko follows another lead and joins the football team, developing a close friendship with the quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell) who may or may not be a possible drug dealer. Schmidt also has to deal with Maya’s very strange and annoying roommate Mercedes (Jillian Bell) who always seems to be watching them at the most inopportune moments.
Of course, in a movie like this, the plot is secondary, serving only as a set-up for the movie’s gags, and this film is full of them from start to finish. Some of the gags work, while others don’t. For me, although there were jokes galore, most of them weren’t overly funny, and so while I did laugh here and there, it was a rarity that I laughed out loud. The nearly sold out audience was also relatively quiet.
One of the funnier gags involved the relationship between Schmidt and Captain Dickson’s daughter, or to be more specific, the discovery that Schmidt had unknowingly slept with his boss’ daughter. This entire sequence generated some of the loudest laughs in the theater.
I also liked the fight between Schmidt and Mercedes, where awkward moments of possible affection creep in and ultimately he’s forced to punch a woman.
FEMALE STUDENT: Punch a woman? What kind of a message is this movie sending?
MA: If you’d seen this woman, you’d want to punch her, too.
FEMALE STUDENT (shocked): What kind of a message are you sending?
MA: That it’s a silly movie without a message. Seriously, it’s a non-issue. It’s a completely goofy movie.
FEMALE STUDENT: I don’t know.
MA: Look, here we are, you and I, in real life, and I’m not about to punch you or even think about punching a woman because of what I saw in this movie, and I’m only going on about this because you brought it up. Why did you bring it up, by the way?
FEMALE STUDENT: Because I’m a college student and I like to think about everything.
MA: That’s good. It’s good to think about everything. You and I could think about everything together after class.
FEMALE STUDENT: That’s creepy.
MA: Well, I’m a horror writer. That’s what I do.
Let’s get back to the movie.
But a lot of the other jokes, while I wouldn’t say they misfire, simply aren’t all that funny. The banter between Hill and Tatum is amiable enough, but it’s not as fresh as it was the first time around. The slapstick sequences are mediocre, and in general the humor isn’t as biting or outrageous as it needs to be.
What does misfire is the running gag of Schmidt and Jenko being brothers, or that they share more than just friendship. When Jenko discovers he shares a brotherly bond with Zook, Schmidt becomes insanely jealous. This plot point just didn’t work for me. It seemed phony, and it wasn’t funny, and it goes on forever as the movie keeps coming back to it. Likewise, a huge chunk of time is also spent on Jenko’s and Zook’s relationship, as we watch them bond over one thing after another, and it’s supposed to be funny, but it all comes off as rather odd and generally falls flat.
And so overall I didn’t think the humor here was quite as sharp as it was in the first movie. The screenplay by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman tries hard and throws all kinds of jokes our way, but only a handful work. Bacall wrote the first 21 JUMP STREET movie as well as SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010), and Rothman co-wrote GRUDGE MATCH (2013) the Sylvester Stallone/Robert De Niro comedy that I liked, although it didn’t perform all that well at the box office.
STUDENT: I really liked SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD.
MA: Me, too. It was one of my favorite movies from 2010.
The screenplay even pokes fun at how sequels can be repetitive, as there’s a running gag where the characters constantly talk about doing things differently, and not doing things the same this time, and that things will be different. Trouble is, things aren’t so different from the first time. The biggest difference is the film is less funny than the first one.
One of the more creative parts of the movie is the end credits, where we get to view a montage of potential future sequels putting Schmidt and Jenko in various undercover roles, in settings like culinary school, in Russia, in space, and on and on. This sequence was pretty funny. I wish the rest of the film had been as inspired.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are OK here, but I liked them much better in the first movie. They simply weren’t as funny or as enjoyable together this time around. It’s Ice Cube as Captain Dickson who gets to enjoy some of the funniest parts of the movie, and that about says it all: when Ice Cube is more comical than both Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, that doesn’t bode well for the movie.
I also thought Jonah Hill was more subdued here than normal. In the past, he’s made me laugh out loud with some of his performances. Compared to his work in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013), the first 21 JUMP STREET (2012) and MONEYBALL (2011), his performance here was somewhat of a dud.
Channing Tatum’s performance was also on the lackluster side. While it looked like Hill and Tatum had a good time making this movie, it didn’t translate into laughs. It was almost like “wink, wink. Here we are doing our same shtick again. Isn’t it funny?” They should have worked really hard on a new shtick.
I liked Jillian Bell as the oddball roommate Mercedes. Her best moments come early on, when she’s just the strange roommate. Later, when she becomes more involved in the plot, she’s less effective, as she’s better as a peripheral character than a major player.
The rest of the cast either play it straight, as in Amber Stevens as Maya, or are slightly goofy and ultimately fail to make much of a comedic impression, as in Wyatt Russell as Zook.
22 JUMP STREET was directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and they directed the first JUMP STREET film as well. They should have quit while they were ahead.
22 JUMP STREET is a silly film that plays out pretty much exactly as I expected it to. It’s fairly funny, and there are tons of gags throughout, but it suffers from being a sequel, as it’s nowhere near as fresh as the first film, nor is it as inspired, nor do the key players impress as much as they did the first time around. And most importantly, it’s simply not as funny as the first film.
For me, it was a lackluster movie.
I give it two knives.
(Turns to students)
Okay, that was my review. For your homework, go off and see a movie this weekend and have a review written for next class.
STUDENT: Can you assign homework? I thought you were just a guest lecturer.
MA: It’s your choice. But if you don’t do the assignment, you’’ll have to deal with him.
(MA sets up a computer and projection screen to show a live feed on the screen. L.L. SOARES appears in a close-up wearing a blood-stained tee shirt and holding an axe dripping with blood.)
L.L. SOARES: You better do your friggin homework or I’m coming for you! In fact, I just left the room of the last guy who didn’t write me a review.
MA: We have high standards here at Cinema Knife Fight. Don’t let us down.
MA: Well, you gotta weed out the ones who don’t have a stomach for this job.
Thanks for joining us everyone. We’ll be back next week with a review of another new movie.