No one, not even its creators, was prepared for the runaway success of the 2012 reboot of '80s cop-kitsch TV series 21 Jump Street. Instead of a cheapo cash-in, here was a charming, smartly self-mocking romp fronted by the most likable and unlikely comedy double act in recent memory, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. This follow-up scores cynical laughs from the idea that it could never match up to the gleeful surprise factor of the original. And it doesn’t—but that’s kind of okay.
"I want you to do exactly what you did last time," barks the Chief of Police to undercover goons Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill), and it’s a maxim the movie takes to heart. So the boys head off to college to bust yet another shady drugs ring, meet some more surprisingly available ladies, get into a few more shoot-’em-up car chases and crack many more obvious but amusing gags about the blurred lines between male bonding and homoeroticism.
There are moments where this all feels a bit tired. The plot is less tight, the action scenes don’t pop like they did before and the relationship between schlubby Schmidt and stunning Maya (Amber Stevens) feels like geek wish-fulfilment. But 22 Jump Street knows how to play to its strengths: Tatum’s performance is even more puppy-dog lovable than last time, and his scenes with Hill possess a goofy, low-key warmth too often lacking in big-budget comedy. Add to that a smattering of top-notch slapstick—one early gag borders on Buster Keaton-ish genius—and perhaps the funniest closing credits sequence ever, and there’s enough goodwill left over to balance out the clunky bits.