After the surprise success of 2012's 21 Jump Street reboot, the sequel had a lot to live up to, and I'm happy to say that's it's a total delight, on par with the first (if not slightly funnier) that exudes a joyous mockery of the very idea of sequels, which kind of allows it to get away with doing just about everything it's poking fun at.
Normally, that would be a lazy screenwriting cliche- being self-aware doesn't automatically mean that the stuff you're doing is funny simply because you're pointing out how aware of it you are. But here, thanks to the directing team behind the first film and this year's The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller manage to lay out in the first fifteen minutes exactly what's going to happen in this movie and then go ahead and do it anyway. The reason it works is because even though the plot might be close to exactly the same as the first (events sometimes even correspond to when they happened in the original), the jokes are about 90% new, and there's not a bad one in the bunch. The movie breezes by, knows exactly what it's doing, and has fun doing it, and that goes double for the actors, once again Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as the cop buddies in question.
Schmidt and Jenko are back on the beat, and this time being sent to college in a couple of perfunctory scenes where returning players Nick Offerman and Ice Cube lay out all the tropes and cliches of the "sequel" that everybody hates ("We're back, but this time with more money in the budget," "Everybody knows that sequels suck"). What sells it is Tatum and Hill's pitch perfect chemistry- the movie has no issues telling us that that the two of them are the real relationship in the film, and some of the best stuff in the movie is Schmidt's jealousy when Jenko has a "meet cute" with a jock football player, which in turn leads to Jenko wanting the two to have an "open investigation," followed by the blossoming of his new bromance while Schmidt is left behind, feeling sorry for himself. This has been played out before in many of the Apatow movies of course, and even before that in movies like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson's Starsky and Hutch remake, but this movie delivers it straight to us in the formula of a rom-com. Apparently, the only kind that can get made anymore is one where the leads are straight men. I won't say it doesn't work though- the two guys' friendship, love and loyalty to each other are the heart of the movie, and even though it could never be mistaken for serious, it makes us laugh and "aww" at the same time when the guys fight, break up and get back together.
But even aside from that, I was impressed with the way all the jokes, references, gags and action scenes flowed so seamlessly. The movie has a brisk pace and not one wasted punchline in a tight script that makes the most of the actors' ability to hit the target. The supporting cast is also good, especially Jillian Bell as a nutty college roommate, who gets in so many zingers about Jonah Hill's old face she could have hosted a roast, and Ice Cube, whose scene-stealing bit part in the first is expanded upon to good use in this one. And frankly, the movie might be worth seeing for the ending credits alone, which make fun of the endless amount of sequels and threequels that could be made in the Jump Street franchise as the guys will undoubtedly wind up in culinary school, flight academy, beauty school, a contract dispute where Hill is replaced by Seth Rogen but then comes back, and on and on, etc. I sometimes tire of self-awareness just for its own sake, but the truth is this movie would have been the funniest movie of the year even without all the referential digs, and that's the reason to see both this and however many more they want to do. Keep 'em coming guys. I'm in.
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