One of the things that made “21 Jump Street” such a pleasant surprise as a movie was the way everyone bet against it the moment it was announced. After all, it’s not like the show was a beloved classic. Under the creative guidance of Chris Miller and Phil Lord, though, it became something much stranger and funnier than anyone could have guessed.
Now they’ve got to beat the sequel curse. Comedies especially seem to have a terrible time with sequels, and I think part of that is because we laugh at things that we don’t see coming. Surprise is certainly part of the equation when it comes to what makes audiences laugh, and with a sequel, that gets exponentially harder, especially if you bring back things from the first film that worked. The script for “22 Jump Street,” though, is a very clever riff on sequels in much the same way that the first film was a riff on the idea of rebooting old TV shows, and you can hear a little bit of that from Nick Offerman in the first red-band trailer for the film, which just went up this morning.
This time, the guys are headed to college, and writers Michael Bacall, Rodney Rothman, and Oren Uziel have a ton of fun with the conventions of college movies as well as the things we expect from sequels. It is once again fast and funny and often completely filthy. I’m glad to see this movie happening even as Jonah also works on films like “The Wolf Of Wall Street” and “Moneyball.” I think he’s getting good at moving back and forth between this sort of fast and funny comedy and then the more intense dramas. I’d hate to see him go years without making a comedy, and I would imagine “Wolf” will only increase the number of dramatic scripts he gets sent.
Tatum, meanwhile, looks like he’s just plain having fun these days. I’ve heard some grumbling about the quick glimpses we got of him in the “Jupiter Ascending” trailer, and while I agree that his appearance is odd, there is a reason for it. I think until we see the film, it’s going to be hard to tell how Tatum works in the reality of that world. It’s a big gamble for him, something that is outside the comfort zone he’s been establishing over the last few years, and I like that he’s taking these chances. There’s a fine line between great and ridiculous sometimes, and Tatum seems willing to skate along that line just to see what happens.
I’m not sure how Miller and Lord were able to pull this off while they’re in the homestretch on “The LEGO Movie,” which sounded like the sort of all-consuming project that would keep them out of live-action for a while. Instead, they’ll have this in theaters on June 13, 2014.
See you there.