Viewers who caught the unexpectedly clever 21 Jump Street adaptation two years ago will recall the impressive devotion (and still more impressive degree of irony) with which the movie clung to formula: the undercover cops in high school, the scourge of a new drug on campus, the headquarters in a deconsecrated chapel. By contrast, the movie’s sequel, 22 Jump Street, opens with something new: partners Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), as adults, staging—or rather trying to stage—a relatively conventional drug bust. The sequence, I think it's fair to say, is at best a moderate disappointment, culminating in a Hill-entangled-with-an-octopus gag that is a pale shadow of his trials with a telephone cord in last year’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
But just when we fear that this may be shaping up to be one of many, many ill-conceived comedy sequels, 22 Jump Street shows that the joke is on us. That initial mission having proven a flop (by law-enforcement and comedic standards alike), Schmidt and Jenko are called into the office of Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman), who informs them—in a magnificently meta twist on his already-meta speech in the first movie—that the new formula isn’t working. He wants them to go back to doing “the same thing again.” Schmidt and Jenko protest (with a nice White House Down joke thrown in for good measure), but Hardy is adamant. The trappings may be different this time—college rather than high school, a different synthetic drug to be tracked down, a new church HQ across the road from the old one at, yes, 22 Jump Street—but he wants the duo back on script: “Same identities. Same assignment. Infiltrate the dealer. Find the supplier.” Having thus rebooted itself as a reboot of the original reboot, 22 Jump Street never looks back—or more accurately, the movie scarcely stops looking back long enough to do anything else.