When a movie opens with a fight sequence featuring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum set to DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What,” it could be a) setting itself up for disaster or b) a sign of hilarious things to come.
In the case of “22 Jump Street,” it’s the latter.
The writers and directors (the same collaborators at the helm of the first installment) accomplished the unthinkable: they made a film sequel not suck. In fact, they made their sequel better than its predecessor.
The first film has its hilarious moments, but there was a major void where Tatum’s comedic confidence should have been, leaving Hill to overcompensate in its absence. In the second film, People’s Sexiest Man Alive of 2012 seems 100 percent comfortable in his skin, allowing for an equal distribution of laugh-causing moments.
Tatum’s counterpart feeds off of his self-assuredness in “22 Jump Street” to help produce one of the best on-screen chemistries of the year.
Jenko a.k.a Brad McQuaid (Tatum) and Schmidt a.k.a. Doug McQuaid (Hill), a pair of cops who found their only career-oriented successes as undercover cops disguised as high school students in “21,” reprise their roles as undercover cops in “22.”
Nick Offerman returns as the unimpressed Deputy Chief Hardy who passes Jenko and Schmidt off to Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson after the pair botch the “Turn Down for What” undercover operation (which includes Schmidt getting an octopus stuck on his face — and it’s just as hilarious as it sounds).
Being the one-trick ponies that they are, Dickson, who is now working out of a swagged-out abandoned Vietnamese church at 22 Jump Street (the Koreans wanted the 21 Jump Street church back), sends Jenko and Schmidt back undercover — but this time they go to college.
A fictional Metropolitan City State College plays host to the completely unbelievable 19-year-old freshmen, where their objective is to infiltrate the dealer of a synthetic trip-tastic drug called Why-Phy and find the supplier.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is. In “21” the pair are ordered to “infiltrate the dealer” and “find the supplier” of another synthetic drug, H.F.S. (Holy [Bleeping] [Bleep]).
Things get rolling as the pair seek out a dealer who they have a photograph of handing off a batch of Why-Phy to a student named Cynthia Watson, who later overdosed and died. When the pair come up short, they consult some seasoned pros.
Jailed “21” dealers Eric (Dave Franco) and a now penis-less Mr. Walters (thanks to a courageous shot by Schmidt in the final scene of “21”) played by Rob Riggle, appear albeit briefly, to act as consultants for Schmidt and Jenko who at that point in the investigation are completely stalled.
They leave with a new lead (Walters points out a reflection in the photo that reveals the dealer dude’s bicep tattoo) which sends them on a wild goose chase, inevitably bringing an end to the bromance.
Brad/Jenko becomes besties with a football-playing fraternity leader named Zook (Wyatt Russell) in an attempt to find the tattooed man, walks onto the school’s football team, pledges said frat, and attempts to take Doug along with him. Alas, his undercover brother is not cut out for the dude-bro lifestyle and pursues other leads.
Doug/Schmidt has a meltdown after he’s deserted despite his own actual blossoming romantic relationship with the gorgeous Maya (Amber Stevens). He plays a clingy, heartbroken partner so well that he and Brad/Jenko are able to fake their way through a therapy visit after being discovered in the school shrink’s office (where they were looking for clues).
The satirical stabs that the fake McQuaids end up taking at their relationship and its faults throughout the remainder of the movie are what make this film a comedic gem, and there’s a good chance you’ll leave the movie theater with an aching gut from laughing so hard.
The unlikely duo of buff bro Jenko and homely dork Schmidt, who helped “21 Jump Street” gross more than $36 million during its opening weekend in 2012, are worth seeing in “22 Jump Street.” Maybe more than once.
Note: If you make it to a show, wait around for the credits to roll. There’s more hilarity to be had.Emily Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MissEmilyWright.