The real question shouldn't be whether 22 JUMP STREET is more or less funny than the first film about two undercover cops (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) who infiltrate a high school drug ring; the real question should is it funny at all. Even if 22 JUMP STREET is slightly less funny than 21 JUMP STREET, that's still better than most comedies that have been released this year thus far. But all of these questions are arbitrary because the new film is just as funny as the first, maybe for different reasons. There are still plenty of laughs, many of them made at the expense of action movie sequels as an institution and rightfully so.
One of things that made the first movie so funny was the idea that Tatum's Jenko and Hill's Schmidt could ever pass for high school students; and let's face it, their days of passing as college age are pretty far behind them too, so jokes about how old they look still play great. Hill takes especially brutal verbal abuse from his girlfriend's roommate, played Jillian Bell, a former "SNL" writer and regular on "Workaholics," "Eastbound & Down" and supporting player in THE MASTER and BRIDESMAIDS, as well as the funniest thing in this movie. The story's new blood really does make the film a better place in general, especially Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt) as football star Zook, who quickly becomes best buds with Jenko. Returning players, such as Ice Cube and Nick Offerman, offer directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 JUMP STREET, THE LEGO MOVIE) the perfect chance to skewer sequels, but it's these new faces that push the story forward.
A big part of the plot involves Schmidt and Jenko questioning the strength of both their partnership and friendship, as each makes friends in college while they are attempting to once again uncover a drug ring and unveil its leader. Jenko drifts into the jock and fraternity crowd, while Schmidt gets involved with a group of artists and other hippies. Both get to live out a college experience they never got to have, and it threatens to rip them apart. I certainly don't mean to make the film sound like a complete bummer. In fact, scenes of them arguing sound a lot like a couple agreeing to take a break and see other people; it's quite funny. And there are plenty of low-brow jokes to go around as well, but even those feel somewhat more knowing and well crafted than your average gross-out comedy.
One of the film's best moments comes during the early part of the end credits, where we are shows "previews" of upcoming JUMP STREET sequels (Culinary School? Space Camp? Even one where Hill's character is temporarily replaced by another actor). Some may question whether the idea of making a similar story to the first film is justified by just making a few cracks about how unoriginal sequels can be; it works here quite well, but if they try it again, there could be trouble. Hill's performance manages to happen in broad strokes, while still filling it out with some great moments of comic timing and well-placed improv nuances. Tatum, on the other hand, heads down a very different path in 22 JUMP STREET, forming a new bond so convincingly with Russell's character that it's almost sad that he has to reveal himself as cop at some point.
Some of the more explosive action sequences work and some of them don't. Peter Stormare as (seemingly) the main bad guy in the film is fairly wasted, which is a shame because the guy can be so funny when given great material. There are definitely a few more moments than I would have liked of jokes that don't work or non-comedy moments that are stretched far too thin. Schmidt's romance with co-ed Maya (Amber Stevens) has a great twist to it, but adds very little to the story, nor does it develop the Schmidt character at all.
But dammit, I laughed a lot during 22 JUMP STREET, and that's what I took away from it more than any flaws. I could watch it and enjoy it just as much a second and third time, and I hope Hill and Tatum continue on as one of filmdom's only fully functional comedy teams. The film will make you laugh, stir your heart a bit, and satisfy your need for bigger and better... or at least bigger and the same.