It can be treacherous to go meta in a sequel, especially in the sequel to movie based on a television series that was already pretty meta, with a climax that included appearances by Johnny Depp and some of the other stars of the 1980’s show about young-looking undercover cops. Meta can be smart and funny (see the movie based on another cheesy television series, “Charlie’s Angels”) but it can also be easy and self-absorbed. This sequel is in some ways about sequels, and one of its best moments comes at the very end, with a piling-on of increasingly sillier ideas for future chapters. There are a couple of nice digs at the bigger budget/lower quality/repetitiveness tradition of movie sequels at the beginning, in a scene with the hilariously deadpan Nick Offerman. But if you’re going to make that joke, you’d better be able to clear that hurdle (as Channing Tatum does in a running joke about his parkour-esque athleticism) and not face-plant (as Jonah Hill does in a recurring joke about his lack of athleticism). There are also recurring jokes about how the stars look too old to be in college, the dynamics of the two guys as a couple, and, again, about the bigger budget and repeated storylines, most of which are not as funny as the filmmakers hope.
The 21 Jump Street group has moved from the former Korean church they used as headquarters to a former Vietnamese church across the street. Hence the new address. And they have spent their bigger budget on a high-tech set-up that their commanding officer, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), describes as suitable for Iron Man. This time, as we heard at the end of the last film, our undercover cops Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are going undercover in a college. And once again they are looking for the people behind the distribution of a powerful drug. This one is known as whyfhy (pronounced Wi-Fi), and it produces four hours of intense focus (for studying) followed by four hours of wild hallucinogenics (for partying). They stop by the prison to consult with a couple of characters from the last film, and then it’s time for school.
The first film had some real insights about high school, but this one feels based on movies about college rather than the dynamics of a real college environment. There is football, fraternity hazing, and spring break, but not a lot of energy or insight. The chemistry between Hill and Tatum is still terrific, and one scene where Jenko loses it following an awkward revelation in the captain’s office works very well. Peter Stormare has an underwritten role as a generic bad guy and Wyatt Russell (son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell) has an underwritten role as a frat guy. The one who comes close to stealing the show here is Jillian Bell as the former roommate of the student whose death led to the undercover operation. If (heaven forbid) there is another sequel, it should not be the budget that is bigger; it should be her role.
Parents should know that this film includes extremely strong and vulgar language, sexual references and non-explicit situations, brief nudity, drinking and drunkenness, fraternity hazing, drugs and drug dealing, law enforcement violence with guns and explosions, and characters who are injured and killed.
Family discussion: Which one of the sequel ideas glimpsed at the end looks funniest? Do you prefer relationships with some friction?
If you like this, try: “21 Jump Street” and “Lethal Weapon”
DVD Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes