22 Jump St – Meta meta could’ve done better

Ever watch 21 Jump St, classic 90’s Johnny Depp star-vehicle? Maybe you saw the first movie when it came out in 2012? Well Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back, with the exact same schtick, and they never let you forget it.

22 Jump St follows the pair to college where Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman of Ron Swanson fame) informs us our heroes have got the ‘same identities, same assignments’ and that they just have do the same thing as last time so everyone’s happy. Only instead of high-school they have to blend into college life to crack a drug-smuggling racket.

It’s the same film over and they’re proud of it, making meta, self-referential jokes the lengthiest gag in the movie. That’s not to say the Tatum-Hill bro-mance doesn’t get it’s fair share of laughs along with a few choice scenes from each star. Hill has his best moment at an improv poetry slam and Tatum, being physically capable of doing a lot more than most actors, including many of his own stunts, turns over a lot of good slapstick.

Being reflexive in a movie is not a bad thing and most films get a smile when they can laugh at themselves and not take their art too seriously. The Hangover II could have benefited a bit, but not much, by acknowledging that they’d made the same movie over again in Bangkok. The meta is fun for a bit before it takes over 22 Jump St, which ultimately becomes about the movie itself rather than anything the characters are doing. We are constantly reminded that we’re watching a movie, which, as articulated by one character, is ‘exactly the same as last time,’ and the schtick becomes tiresome and repetitive. The first film didn’t go overboard and had a wonderful gag about the police department reviving forgotten programs from the 90s. And thats just it; 21 Jump St did it first, and the sequel feels worn and lazy.

22 Jump St revels in being in most ways a play-by-play of the first movie and deviates little from the structure or characters introduced by its predecessor. Offerman’s character even gives a detailed account of the typical sequel breakdown, telling the duo that it’s “always worse the second time around.” But it’s not just the movie’s existence itself; the writers seem determined to be as meta as able by throwing in as many gags as possible. Ice Cube’s office in the movie is situated in a giant ice-like cube, and a red herring in the investigation literally turns out to be a red herring.

Sure it’s all fun, but the film-makers could’ve invested a little more in writing up something original. It’s commonplace for Hollywood to remake or develop follow-ups to successful original films without deviating too much from the first success. 22 Jump St has a go at the trend without bucking it themselves, focusing so much on being a sequel about sequels that it falls into the same traps as its sequel predecessors, becoming not so much of a follow-up, but a fond reminder of the fun we had when they did it the first time around.