Here’s the thing: I love the Jump Street movies. Obviously neither 21 nor 22 Jump Street are great works of art, or even perfect comedies, but they are eminently quotable, restless to the point of bursting, and surprisingly sweet at times. They were also the catalysts for my changing opinion on one Channing Tatum, helping to metamorphose my view of him from that of the vacuous lunkhead Charming Potato to a genuinely appealing screen presence with deceptively great comic timing.
More than anything else though the Jump Street movies make me laugh. A lot. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller know how to work and finesse those scripts and to manage their actors to deliver a pretty great mix of highbrow and lowbrow humour. I mean, let’s not go crazy here—obviously it’s mostly lowbrow, but you can tell it’s coming from a good place, and the occasional streaks of sensitivity and insight that the movies are shot through means that things never go off the bro-deep end, with the second film in particular providing some funny and cutting meta-commentary on the nature of Hollywood sequel-ism.
A side note here: While watching 22 Jump Street with my girlfriend not too long ago, she said something that caused a little identity crisis within me. It was just after Ice Cube finds out that Schmidt (Jonah Hill) has unwittingly slept with his daughter while undercover at the college she also attends. It’s parents evening at the college, and because he is obviously unable to express his anger in words Ice Cube takes it out on the caterers, and the catering.
Now, the first time I saw Ice Cube angrily demand his string beans, then ask a cooked chicken if it wants to go the movies before breaking its legs, and then put Mr. Nice Plant in its place with his foot, I thought I was gonna piss myself laughing. This time it wasn’t as intense, but I was still buckled over laughing. When the laughter subsided, my girlfriend made an observation. It turns out she had been making a series of them, actually, subconsciously, and they culminated here with an address to me that went: ‘Petr…I think you’re a bro. Obviously not a full-on bro bro, but, like, there’s a whole bunch of broness in you. It’s mixed in there with all of that progressive stuff, sure. But it’s in there. You’re like…bro 2.0?’ Suffice it to say that got me thinking, and I soon realised that there might well be some element of truth to it. It manifested itself in a number of non-movie related ways, but here was the catalysing observation. That no matter how many thousands of words I might spill on Richard Linklater or 6-hour long Italian movies, when it comes to making me laugh, it’s people falling over or being drunk and stupid—or angry and kicking a plant—that probably does the trick more often than anything else. Did that combination of affinities make me a bro 2.0?
Either way, after finishing 22 Jump Street that time, laughing at all the lowbrow glory along the way and enjoying those amazing parody sequel teases at the end of the film, I thought:
‘Wait a minute. It’s been 3 years! Just where the hell is my 23 Jump Street: Medical School?!’
Because in September 2014, 23 Jump Street was totally confirmed, with Rodney Rothman, co-writer of 21 and 22, reportedly working on the screenplay, and Miller and Lord helping to oversee things. According to Deadline at the time, the two were told they could return to the fold as directors for 23 should they so desire.
So, what has happened since then?
A whole lot, and a big pile of nothing at the same time, as it turns out.
First, to the directors. Christopher Lord and Phil Miller made quite huge sums of money for Sony with the two Jump Street movies. They also made the similarly profitable, and critically adored, The Lego Movie. After that, Lord and Miller entered the stratosphere—at least for a little while—when they were given the directing duties for one of Disney’s Star Wars monoliths—the solo Han Solo movie. The two were soon brought back down to Earth however, infamously being involved in the quitting/firing debacle that provided so much fodder for entertainment journalists (as well as insights into the vast Disney machinery), and that saw them leaving the Solo movie last year. Very recently, it was announced that the duo had signed on to direct an adaptation of the Andy Weir (of ‘The Martian’ fame) sci-fi crime novel, ‘Artemis’. They also stated back in 2015 that while they were happy to produce and assist with the movie, they had no interest in returning to direct any sequel to 22 Jump Street. So for the time being anyway, it looks like Lord and Miller’s interest lie elsewhere. One should keep in mind, however, that the duo initially did not plan to return for 22 Jump Street, before eventually changing their minds after seeing the script. So as far as directors for a potential sequel go, you basically never know with the mercurial twosome.
Secondly, about that Jump Street/Men In Black crossover. Yeah, that
is was absolutely maybe possibly A Thing. For a little while it was big news that the official sequel to 22 Jump Street was going to be a crossover with another Sony franchise, the Men In Black (without Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones attached). This despite star Channing Tatum’s expressed reservations about another entry in the series way back in 2014:
“I feel like that would be a cop-out,” Tatum told USA Today. “College was the obvious next step for us. We had to go there. I don’t know what the next step is after college. Do we go and take down Enron? Or the government in D.C.? I feel like it’s all redundant.”
By 2016 however it looked like Tatum had changed his mind, with a Variety report confirming that both of the series’ leads were to return for the sequel. The news of 23 Jump Street first broke in the massive Sony hack of 2015, but details like this did not emerge until later. Alongside the news concerning its stars, the movie’s director was also revealed in the Variety piece: It was to be James Bobin (The Muppets, Flight of the Conchords) who would take the chair, not Lord and Miller—although at the time the reasons given were that the duo were tied up in the Han Solo movie. Rodney Rothman’s script for 23 was also reportedly completed around this time.
We had a script. We had the stars. We didn’t have the directors because they were busy with something else, until they weren’t, but it’s okay we found someone else to do it anyway. We had a silly crossover idea that might be just silly enough to work.
What happened then?
The next thing we heard was in late 2016 when Jonah Hill had this to say about the sequel to 22 Jump Street:
“I had the idea,” Hill tells Postmedia Network. “But I doubt that movie will get made.”
“It’s too complicated,” Hill concedes. “They’re trying to make all the deals, but it’s kind of impossible with all the Men in Black stuff. The Jump Street films were so fun to make and the whole joke of them was they were making fun of remakes and sequels and reboots and then now it’s become a giant sequel, reboot. It’s almost become what we were making fun of and it’s hard to maintain that joke when it’s so high stakes.”
Hill did express some hope, saying:
“I love Channing and I love Phil Lord and Chris Miller and I love making those movies — they’re a lot of fun. So I hope it works out.”
Any hope being held out for a Jump Street/Men In Black crossover, however, should have been laid to rest when Sony revealed last year that they had fast-tracked a separate MIB movie, totally independent of any crossover hijinks.
This, then, is where we find ourselves at the start of 2018: Under-informed, drowning in contradiction and confusion, and hoping for at least one more entry from this monumentally silly but surprisingly sweet and clever series. I for one would love it, though I don’t put too much stake in it actually happening.