Film Review: 22 Jump Street

by Sam Robinson

Rated MA15+. Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum. Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller.

[Stars: 3.5/5]

Those daft punks from Jump Street are back in perhaps the most self-referential film of all-time. It’s so meta.

After their success in 2012’s 21 Jump Street (both in the film’s plot, and at the box office), Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are moving digs across the road to a new headquarters at 22 Jump Street. We’re warned that this film will be sticking to its guns – that it’s ‘just like last time’, but there’s double the budget. It should be noted too, that 23 Jump Street is under construction across the road.

It’s all a tongue-in-cheek take on sequels in their unoriginality and drive for box-office success, but the amount of self-referencing in 22 Jump Street is thankfully never a distraction from the story. In fact there’s such a great feeling of honesty that it becomes enjoyable. Just wait until the credits roll to see the 75 year plan for the franchise, and some of the witty puns that lie ahead, almost strong enough to rival the Air Bud series.

‘Do the same thing as last time, and everyone is happy.’

Thankfully though, despite 22 Jump Street being ‘just like last time’, it’s a great ride. It’s so reminiscent of great buddy action films of yesteryear, but with the twist that both these guys have absolutely no clue what they’re doing. From the “expensive” opening sequence where Schmidt ends up with an octopus strapped to his face, and both cops find themselves dangling from the side of a truck – it’s clear that these undercover cops are going to blunder their way through another case, even if it is ‘just like last time’.

Their case takes them to college, where a dangerous new synthetic drug named WHYPHY (pronounced ‘wifi’) has claimed the life of a student. The pair must track down the dealer and stop the drug ‘going viral’, or spreading beyond that campus to the rest of the US.

In theory that’s the storyline of 22 Jump Street, but in reality the story takes a backseat as the focus shifts to the relationship between Schmidt and Jenko. As they enter college life, they discover their differences. Jenko meets kindred spirit Zook (Wyatt Russell) and the pair become inseparable, much to Schmidt’s jealousy. Schmidt however meets and falls for art student Maya (Amber Stevens). These new relationships drive a wedge between our cop buddies and completely distracts them from the main game of their investigation.

This got me thinking about the way God sees us as we run away from him to other people, passions, and idols, all which distracts us from our maker. God created us to be in a perfect relationship with him, but so often we would prefer to spend time with the things of this world than follow him in the way he calls us to. Because of this, the Bible describes God as jealous on multiple occasions, including in Exodus 34:14 –

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

The immediate context here is Moses giving the law to God’s people Israel, but it describes God in such an incredible way. His name is jealous. And he has the right to be jealous because he made us and owns us and doesn’t want to see us splitting our loyalty between him and other people, things, idols. Schmidt and Jenko can’t claim this about each other, so really what they feel is envy, not jealousy.

God is not only jealous but compassionate. It’s only by his grace that he calls us back to himself at the cross of Jesus, and forgives us for our rebellion against him. He might be jealous, but reconciliation is what he desires.

As ridiculous as the film is, it’s really quite touching when the duo come to realise their need for each other, despite their differences, and reconcile (via some nice split screens). It’s clear this pair are meant to work together. There’s real charm in these softer moments, and it’s complemented by the great chemistry between Hill and Tatum.

22 Jump Street is very clever and very witty. Coming from the pair behind The Lego Movie and the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films that comes as no surprise. Any film that shows Ice Cube destroying a lunch buffet is a winner in my books. Best of all though, the film defies all the jokes it makes about sequels being awful. But be warned – there is a lot of strong language, and I mean a lot. I’m giving 22 Jump Street three-and-a-half out of five stars.

22 Jump Street is in cinemas now.

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