ImageHollywood may be running out of ideas, but they’re certainly not running out of creativity. Just look at 2012’s 21 Jump Street. A reboot of a long forgotten 80s TV show may have sounded like a terrible idea on paper, but a smart script, solid direction and some irresistible chemistry between its two leads made it one of the best comedies of that year. Now the entire creative team is back for a sequel, with the aptly titled 22 Jump Street. It’s rare for a sequel to outshine its predecessor, but directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller somehow manage to pull it off. The budget is bigger, the cast shines brighter and the humor is even more Meta. If the original film was simply a great comedy, then this is a great film, period.

As a throwback to the original TV show, 22 Jump Street opens with a “Previously on 21 Jump Street” segment, recapping the major events from the previous film. An Annie Hall reference that is thrown into this montage gets the film started on a hilariously clever foot. We next see Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) working an undercover operation that goes horribly wrong. They’re informed by Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) that their mission was a failure because it wasn’t exactly the same as the original. Now, despite no one really caring about the Jump Street reboot, the department has given them twice the budget to recreate the same case that they did before. Schmidt and Jenko meet up with Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who informs the two officers that this time they’re going to college to infiltrate and investigate a drug ring.

From the talk of an increased budget to the hints at an inevitable sequel, it’s clear that the script by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman is wonderfully self-aware. Its plot is extremely similar to the original, but the film constantly acknowledges this fact throughout the entire movie. Not only are these moments quite funny, but they also work as a critique of the state of modern cinema. Even the ending credits poke fun at the desperate cash grab that this franchise may have started as originally.

While the self-aware humor borders on genius, the rest of the film isn’t afraid to become raunchy and over the top. Thankfully, even when the humor becomes a bit broader, the jokes always seem to have a clever earnestness surrounding them. Perhaps this is due to the excellent chemistry surrounding Hill and Tatum. They were great in the original and they’re just as good the second time around. These two actors have such great comedic timing with one another that it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they appeared alongside each other in more comedies outside the Jump Street franchise. While he may have been underused in the original, Ice Cube is also fantastic this time around. The funniest scene in the entire film is shared between him and Hill. It’s so funny that it still had me chuckling, long after the scene had ended.

From its opening moments, it’s clear that this is a film with a lot of energy. Lord and Miller blend the humor with the slick action sequences to create a comedy that hardly has a dull moment in its entire runtime. It’s consistently funny and I had a huge grin on my face throughout. Regrettably, there are a couple characters and subplots that aren’t given enough screen time to fully develop, but these problems are practically inconsequential. As the film began to approach its climax, I realized that I desperately didn’t want it to end, which is a sure sign of a great film. The original film felt like Lord and Miller were just getting their feet wet. With the sequel, they’re diving in head first.

22 Jump Street receives 3.5/4

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