’22 Jump Street’ Blu-ray Review: Why Sequels Are Awesome
22 Jump Street is why I’m Franchise Fred. I’ve always loved sequels and the art of continuing a story is sometimes more interesting to me than creating an original one. There are many different approaches. Do you try to do something completely different? Do you try to do the same thing over again? I actually think the latter is totally valid, because once you’ve established a world and characters, you can delve deeper into that world rather than start something new over. Even if you literally reshot the exact same script, you’d inevitably come across different approaches just because you’re filming it a year or two after the original. 22 Jump Street knows this and made perhaps the greatest sequel about sequelitis ever.
Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are asked to go undercover in college, with the film frequently pointing out they are expected to do the exact same thing that worked last time, even criticizing the additional money being spent on their latest mission. It’s meta and it’s so obvious it’s irreverent, but Schmidt and Jenko are completely sincere about it.
It’s one thing to be self-aware and say “sequels suck” like Scream 2. It’s quite next level to weave it into the plot and come out the other end convinced that sequels are awesome. Schmidt and Jenko essentially try to pitch other movies they’d rather do before repeating themselves, and they’re all movies that have been done, some by Tatum himself. The movie actually insists that they do the sequel. Captain Hardy (Nick Offerman) orders it, and even when Schmidt tries to point out some differences, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) orders him to stick to the script. This is also a reworking of the first movie, where Hardy called out the phenomenon of remaking old ideas and hoping no one notices.
An important aspect of any sequel is its standalone quality. The best sequels reward fans but welcome new viewers too. Likewise, great satire is when you can completely ridicule something but still exist completely on your own. If a viewer lived in a vacuum and never knew there was a sequel to anything, perhaps never even knew there was a 21 Jump Street, they could follow along and get the story. It’s two partners following a successful mission by being pressured to repeat themselves. That is a legitimate story on its own, but the subtext is so much fun.
I think doing the same premise again is perfectly valid, because of course they will find new jokes in it. College brings with it dynamics of fraternities and roommates. It’s a different world from high school, but perhaps in the same milieu. The specific scenarios of this case lead to a classic “angry Ice Cube” sequence. Jonah Hill still comments on social graces, which is the basis for a lot of his humor in other movies (including This is the End) so why not let him loose on the unique self-contained world of college society?
Of course, Phil Lord and Chris Miller would have fun with any formula. They already did with cop movies and high school movies, and they’re still playing with the cop movie tropes they haven’t nailed yet, as well as relationship movies. Pay attention to the names of the buildings during a campus chase, and of course every time Schmidt and Jenko ignore very obvious clues to the plot. They’re having fun with it, but they earn it. It’s not enough to just say, “Ha ha, we’re in on the joke.” They acknowledge the ridiculous premise but then make you really feel for Schmidt and Jenko when they take the case really personally.
I was hoping the commentary track with Lord, Miller, Tatum and Hill would back me up on the sequel analysis but they really don’t talk about sequels at all. It’s still a very fun track with all four sharing funny stories and legit information, such as that there were naked breasts in the Spring Break sequence, but they found that boobs weren’t funny. The more you know.
The deleted scenes did give some insight into the art of comedy sequel. An original opening sequence is funny, but not as funny as simply recapping the first movie like a TV episode prologue. An extended Richard Grieco cameo spoofs both cameos and spinoffs, which are a form of sequels on television, and the extended finale riffs on sequels like Bad Boys II and the role of women in buddy movies.
To touch on the technical aspects and be thorough, the Blu-ray transfer looks great. It looks like a legitimate big budget action movie, particularly in the glowing sun-drenched Spring Break finale. The humor works because it’s taking place in the pseudo Michael Bay world, so the Blu-ray does it justice, cop pun intended. And now you can pause those split second sequel posters in the end credits and get all the jokes that whizzed by in theaters!