"Do the same thing!" Ice Cube bellows at Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum—or, rather, Captain Dickson bellows at Schmidt and Jenko, the buddy-cops of 22 Jump Street. This sequel to 2012's 21 Jump Street purposely blurs the lines between the actors and their characters for "meta" gags, but it doesn't change what the movie is: just another dumb sequel.
In what's bound to be a love-it-or-hate-it affair for audiences, 22 Jump Street delivers on the threat made by its predecessor (and recapped in a "Previously on 21 Jump Street" opener): to transplant narcs Schmidt and Jenko from high-school to college. Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) lays down the self-referential groundwork about where the first movie—a comic reboot of the 1987-1991 FOX crime drama—has been and how this one will retread it with more money: ""You got lucky. Anyone with half a brain thought it would fail spectacularly."
And so it's off to 22 Jump Street, a pricier, bigger if not necessarily better undercover HQ right across the street from 21 Jump Street. There, Dickson dispatches the decidedly overgrown boys to Metro City State College to track the source of a dangerous new drug called "Whyphy." Again, school life has a way of driving a wedge between lunkheaded Jenko, a blissful jock, and squat, sharp-tongued Schmidt, who nevertheless somehow pulls off a hookup with a girl named Maya (Amber Stevens). For his part, Jenko "hooks up" with a football bro named Zook (Wyatt Russell) that just may be implicated in the drug ring.
The crime plot proves even more halfhearted this time around, except as a self-conscious excuse for vehicular chases, gunfights and explosions. Making fun of having more money to do the same old shiznit isn't a new idea, and once the movie has slapped itself on the wrist a few times, it has nowhere to go except to be what it disdains: a pointless money-grabber. What would have been truly subversive: a sequel on budget cuts that kept promising bigger and better explosions and gunfights but never being able to pull the trigger (might've been funnier too).
But that wouldn't fulfill the function of the Hollywood machine that enslaves 22 Jump Street just as much as any other multiplex product, much as the stars (Hill co-authored the story); screenwriters Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman; and filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (fresh from the triumph of The Lego Movie) wish it weren't so. Instead of pursuing edgier material—like, say, having the cops enjoy the drug they're trying to eliminate and thereby have an existential crisis—the picture is content to go through the motions of football practice, a frat initiation, and a big finale at Spring Break in Puerto, Mexico.
In fact, there's not a thing in 22 Jump Street that isn't recycled. That's never clearer than in the hoary "it's like they're gay!" jokes this movie doubles down on in the bromantic relationships between Jenko and Zook, and Schmidt and Jenko (yeah, yeah, we get it, and we also got it seven years ago when Hill was starring in Superbad). If there's a saving grace here, it's revisiting the odd-couple chemistry of Hill and Tatum. Still, 22 Jump Street can wink all it wants, identifying its own cliches as it succumbs to them, but the movie is still contemptuous of its audience. At least the end credits sequence bravely(?) shoots this movie's sequel potential in the foot—we hope.