Blockbuster Talk: A ‘22 Jump Street’ Bro-Down Throw-Down

This summer, two Grantlanders will gather to discuss the weekend’s mega-franchise, counterprogramming comedy, or teen weepie to discuss truth, spoilers (!), and the Hollywood way. This week: Amos Barshad and Zach Dionne tackle 22 Jump Street.

Amos Barshad: Hey, Zach, congratulations — you just saw 22 Jump Street! Are you overwhelmed with nostalgia for your own days of beer pong and keg stands and heroically choking down vomit? Are you fiending for some sweet, pure, uncut WHYPHY? Or do you just really wanna tearily, and with much unspoken emotional heft, high-five whoever your real-life Channing Tatum BFF is? (Who, knowing you, I assume is Channing Tatum?)

Talk to me, man.

Zach Dionne: Amos, I’ve spent so little of my life in the company of Channing Tatum, or anyone even Tatumesque! Jocks and bros and Channings were so my natural predator as a kid that I completely avoided them for many years. Also: The first time I did a keg stand was the day I graduated college. Go ahead and make that L with your fingers and press it to your forehead.

But! Channing was actually personally responsible for reha-bro-itating me, just a couple years ago, with a little number called 21 Jump Street. That fantastic film ended my ability to pretend an actual human person couldn’t live the blueprint Zac Efron gave mankind in High School Musical. Tatum is the MVP as well as the star of the school play, no question. He’s our age’s poster boy for well-roundedness — superhero-like strength (which 22 Jump Street does a ton with), chiseled looks, supreme self-awareness (there’s definitely a wink toward Magic Mike and Tatum’s dancer past), and dynamite comedic timing. Channing Tatum is my bro, actually — even in puka shells.

Despite my change of heart, though, Channie’s presence in my life remains limited. So I made sure to see 22 Jump with the logical understudy, my best bro in the tristate area. We timed it just right to have a Saturday-morning buddy bike ride, rip a nice [redacted], and hit up what he dubbed “a fratinee.” (Nailed it.)

Um — let’s really get into the movie now. You did an interview with the directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, still swimming in that Lego Movie money, and you mentioned how the original film succeeded partially because it was a “properly punched-up” spin on worn material. Would you say the same for the sequel? I’ll hit on a couple specifics I loved: (1) Schmidt’s WHYPHY trip taking him to hell, where Creed plays; (2) Queen Latifah, as Ice Cube’s wife, saying, “I’m straight outta Compton; my husband’s from Northridge”; and (3) everything about the guy who played Zook, Wyatt Russell. This definitely felt like his breakout role, especially since his dozen previous parts were things like Flirty Hockey Player and Drug PSA Stoned Teenager.

Barshad: True story: I saw Channing Tatum at a bar once. He was wearing a baseball cap forward BUT slightly askew, and he was doing amusing BUT graceful dances to make his friends laugh. What I’m trying to say is that Channing Tatum is Channing Tatum.

BTW, YES, shout-out to Zook. I also enjoyed his flat-affect good vibes, and was sure I’d seen him before somewhere. I looked him up, though, and found out that while Wyatt Russell indeed hasn’t been in much, he is the offspring of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. So maybe it was just my boy Snake Plissken, reincarnated as a gleam in his kid’s eye? (Our new friend Wyatt’s first role: “Orphan Boy,” Escape From L.A.)

God bless ’em, too, for giving Cube way more to work with this time around. I salute the man’s incredible staying power (plus I’ll go to bat for Next Friday; come at me, bro), but, in general, he’s a blank to me these days. Still … quite possibly no one was more scary-angry than 19-year-old Ice Cube — “FUCK THE POLICE COMING STRAIGHT FROM THE UNDERGROUND” is a battle cry for all time — and to let him nod to that now, in an impotent suburban-dad-rage kind of way, was a strange delight. And the next time I need a fancy buffet destroyed/mocked, I know who I’m calling.

Jenko and Schmidt’s drug trip was a delight, even more so when you find out they went Creed because Nickelback was being too Nickelback-y to let the movie use their music. (Scott Stapp, coming off as a self-aware mensch for the first time ever?!) In that interview you mentioned — THANK YOU FOR PLUGGING MY WORK, MY DEAR ZACH — Lord and Miller said they felt some pressure about topping the drug trip from the first flick, and decided to go for it anyway. Which, of course, is the vibe of the entire thing: acknowledge that everything we’re seeing is something we’ve seen before, but say, “Screw it, it’s gonna be a good time anyway.” And, more or less, that was true: From rampant cartoon destruction to Jonah Hill’s broken bro heart, the movie was as comforting as a warm bath. The real cleverness of the first one, though, was the inverted high school popularity dynamics — now the environmentally conscious crew were drug-dealing cool kids, and fond both of respecting each other and double-strapping. This time out, as much as I enjoyed Tatum slo-mo beer-can tower leaps, it was still college as we’ve seen it a bunch of times before.

But by the time we got to Jonah Hill and the perfectly mordant Jillian Bell’s fistfight/near-makeout-session in the middle of spring break hedonism (shout-out to the quasi-passed-out dude in the corner), did it even matter?! Do we really care about a sequel’s diminishing returns if it’s still a bunch of fun? In other words: Are you ready for 31 Jump Street: Ninja Academy?


Dionne: Well, I took three legal pad pages of notes during the movie and got nachos on them watching Italy vs. England, so this is about to get beautifully vague.

I agree 22 Jump Street was comforting. It’s always nice to walk into a comedy already familiar with the characters and the tone, and this movie really leans into that. I didn’t mind the structure being identical to the first one because that was (a) something Lord and Miller were doing very transparently and intentionally, and (b) they tackled a lot of new material on the same playing field. Every film critic has already said it, but we still should acknowledge that this is a sequel about sequels. But that meta thread doesn’t make itself overly prominent — 22 Jump Street is still primarily just another super-funny, extra-flashy movie about two guys with real chemistry.

I appreciate your research on Kate Hudson’s secret baby bro(ther) Wyatt. I’m also glad you mentioned Jillian Bell, because she was the other non-Hill/non-Chan/non-Cube standout. (Dave Franco, we missed you.) I have to register some concern about Jonah Hill just throwing haymaker after haymaker right into Bell’s face, though. I get that they set it up with her character saying the bit about “If you thought of me as a person rather than a woman, you’d fight me” — but … just … ouch. Rough viewing there for a minute. The ridiculous make-out tension smoothed things over, sort of.

This exchange would not be credible if we didn’t comment on 22 Jump Street bringing “Turn Down for What” into the world of cinema, firing up that loud and pouring another shot. (I think Wesley and Alex predicted this would happen on Do You Like Prince Movies? too.)

I don’t know if I’d stay interested through 31 Jump Street: Ninja Academy, or even 25 Jump Street: Semester at Sea, but I’m not sure if I even have to worry about that. Would it be naive to assume that, no matter how big this movie gets (and it did win the box office and pull about $60 million), those closing credits — and the whole thing’s overall mission — closed the door to any credible further installments? I feel like Jump Street’s done. Maybe.

Barshad: Yeah, I guess this is the end for our friends Jenko and Schmidt, which is sensible enough. Tatum’s going Gambit, and probably has another swing at a straight-up action hit in him (speaking of meta, a big [prayer hands emoji] to that White House Down self-burn); meanwhile, Jonah’s still got that Oscar to cop. But you’re right — that chemistry is real. And that’s a rare and beautiful thing. Despite its many flaws and general nut-punch inclinations, I have SO MUCH love for the Harold & Kumar franchise, based almost entirely on the genuine best-bud-ism those two display (whenever Kumar calls him ’Roldi, I instinctively lovingly ruffle the hair of the person nearest to me).

Really, this is about the power of shifting expectations. 21 Jump Street came out of nowhere; 22, though, had a legacy to uphold. And so whatever nitpicking I do, just know I don’t mean it, no, not really — at the end of the day, I love seeing those two goofballs in love. What I’m trying to say is, genuine broffection can carry just about anything a pretty long way. Just like us now, ZD. Just like this here.

A few spare thoughts: The walk-of-shame-as-low-fi-zombie-invasion was a minor stroke of genius; “Turn Down for What” still makes me feel like I can GODDAMN FLY; and while NZT-48 — the fake drug from Limitless that turns our stupid worthless brains into Portuguese-learning machines — will always be my fake drug of choice, I think my heart just made a little room for WHYPHY.

Just here and there, of course. Mostly on the weekends.

Dionne: You bring up Limitless a lot, man. Do we have to movie-night that thing together this weekend? You bring the WHYPHY, I’ll bring the scratched copy of Human Clay?

Barshad: I love Limitless so much and it’s such a piece of shit. Let’s def watch it ASAP.

Filed Under: Movies, blockbuster talk, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, wyatt russell, 22 jump street, phil lord, chris miller