We and when I say we, Im talking about film critics and movie fans were caught completely off guard a couple of years back when 21 Jump Street made a successful transition from little screen to big screen. It got great reviews and it made lots of money. That kind of thing doesnt happen very often to TV shows that are turned into movies. But it was smart and stupid, hip and outlandish, and as a bonus it was as action-packed as it was funny, all the while defying the conventions of your typical cop-buddy movie.
So how do you follow that up? Well, if youre co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, you take a break from live-action craziness and make The LEGO Movie, which was even crazier, but featured plastic characters. Then you again team with the same two lead stars and make 21 Jump Street all over again, but you ratchet it up a few notches, so its smarter and stupider and hipper and more outlandish. What about being action-packed and funny? Racheted up!
22 Jump Street is a perfect sequel, in that it takes every element of its predecessor and makes it better. It also regularly makes fun of itself. You can be sure of that from the opening frame, which blurts out in 24-like glory, Previously on 21 Jump Street, then proceeds to fire off quick clips from the first film, before plopping our two undercover high school heroes Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) into more traditional undercover work trying to break up a stolen exotic animals ring.
Short story: They botch it, are immediately sent to their superior officer and are ordered to go back and do what you do. Translation: Report to Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), whos headquartered in the former Korean church at 21 Jump Street. No, wait, hold that. HQ has moved over to the larger Vietnamese church at 22 Jump Street. But, in the words of the ever-angry Captain Dickson, Its the same case! Do the same thing!
No, not quite the same. Theyre again assigned to mix in with a schools population in order to find the supplier of a new designer drug, this one nicknamed why-phy, which initially makes its user very focused (good for students), then turns them into a party animal (also good for students). But theyve graduated to a college locale rather than a high school.
The film takes and provides great pleasure in making it obvious that these two guys would never pass as college students (Hill is 30, Tatum is 34), and in pointing out the differences between the two characters. Hills Schmidt is drawn to the campus art crowd, while Tatums Jenko immediately heads to the frat pack; Schmidt is smart and out of shape, but Jenko is, ummm, not so smart, and can likely play any sport, very well. As actors, Hill is naturally funny, and Tatum is self-deprecatingly hilarious.
The side plots that accompany their search for the drug supplier include Jenko finding a new buddy in the football-mad Zook (Wyatt Russell), and Schmidt meeting up with a possible love interest in co-ed Maya (Amber Stevens). Nice touch: Mayas dorm room has posters of Picasso (well, she is an art student) and Devos Mark Mothersbaugh (who wrote the films score).
But theres not much time to focus on such details, as the directors keep a raucousness going, one that they made work in 21 Jump Street, perfected in The LEGO Movie, and make shine in this one. Oh, there are niggling little clichs and theres pointless mayhem in a silly car chase. But there are also spot-on scene-stealing turns by Ice Cube and by Patton Oswalt as a psychology professor, wild sight gags that comfortably mix with subtle sight gags, a great Cate Blanchett joke, an Annie Hall reference (think lobsters), a couple of very bizarre (and truly insane) fistfights happening simultaneously near the end, and a magical revelatory moment, in the parents weekend sequence, during which every single member of the audience will react as one laughing, loudly.
In an example of saving the best for last, please take this advice: When the movie ends, dont jump up and go. The closing credits present viewers with such an entertaining set of conclusions, nobody watching will know who made or who was in the movie; theyll be too busy lapping up whats going on visually to pay attention to any names.

Written by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman; directed by Phil Lord, Chris Miller
With Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
Rated R