I had the ideal entry into this film. I hadn’t seen 21 Jump Street, hadn’t seen any trailers, and it’d been released long enough previously that I couldn’t remember any details from reviews other than it was fun and had a great end-credit sequence. What this film has become in my mind is virtually the definition of post-modern artistic endeavour – in a good way.
What we have in 22 Jump Street is a sequel that knows its a sequel and perpetually makes sly references to that. It is the second in a franchise bringing back to life a 30-year old TV show about undercover kids, but starring actors in their mid-30s who look it. It’s got an overt plot, of a drug investigation, in which the clues are signposted in the language of story beat analyses. The characters discuss themselves as fictional constructs. Virtually every second in every scene is a pastiche referencing genre classics and recycling them. There is not one second of obviously original material. And yet, buried in the layers of ironic reference is a story that actually works. It does not succumb to the problems of Murder by Death or Clue and become nonsensical. As an actual story, it is functional.