As growing hype continues for directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, their next effort, 22 Jump Street, will make sure to lower your expectations.
Last fall, yours truly and a host of other members of the film press were flown down to New Orleans to witness production on 22 Jump Street, a sequel to the surprise 2012 hit. After taking the time out to visit with family and friends, I hopped into a caravan which took us cinephiles to Tad Gormley Stadium, a small, but decently sized area where various high school teams come to put on a big show. The warm weather was uncharacteristic for this Brooklyn boy, but there wouldn't be any complaints. Surrounded by the huffs and grunts that come with football practice, we were all seated just within earshot of returning directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (before we knew anything about their LEGO Movie smash hit) offering advice to Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill about a scene.
The adaptation of the classic '80s TV show about undercover teen narcs caught everybody off guard, mainly due to Tatum and Hill's outlandish chemistry as officers Jenko and Schmidt, respectively. With the dollars rolling in came the expectations of a sequel, which Lord and Miller were admittedly a bit reluctant to return to. Add to that, a host of scribes who took shots at drafts that fell flat, and it wasn't until Oren Uziel and Michael Bacall found the plotline. 22 Jump Street would not only double-down on the adventures of Jenko and Schmidt, but would be "about being deeply entrenched in a relationship with another man," according to Lord.
The co-directors have set the new stage in a college atmosphere, as the duo have planned the day's festivities around a hilarious on-campus chase involving a giant football SUV and a comedic bit involving a "meat-Qute". Throughout the day, we would be treated to a sit down with the main cast, the dynamic directing duo, and watch all the lines unfold in then-realtime. The plot finds Jenko and Schmidt attempting to get on the Metropolitan City State football team. As the cameras track the two, Channing's character is surveying the football field as if he's recalling past days of yore. Fully immersed in his element, Jenko whispers, "F**k yeah," before aggressively dipping a Q-Tip in his ear. The guffaws can already be heard in the background.
Us, as onlookers, witness Jonah Hill's Schmidt approaching his partner-in-crime and the two have a weird discussion about ear cleaning rituals. "This is a weird time to be Q-Tipping," Schmidt says to Jenko. "Gotta be able to hear everything that's going on," Tatum says in response. There are a few improv cues, yet the scene continues as it was written on the page. Moments later, a character named Zook (played by Wyatt Russell, Kurt Russell's son), holding a roast beef sandwich, bumps into Channing Tatum and their worlds (and objects) merge.
Next, we see the camera crew getting close-up shots of this "meat-Qute" where Jenko delivers some of the most hilarious lines that make you laugh from the bottom of your gut. "We also shot a version where they didn't do that in order to protect ourselves from getting too meta," Miller tells the journos later in a sit-down chat. We see the budding bromance between Zook and Jenko, which serves as the fuel for Schmidt's jealousy that'll go on throughout the first two acts of the picture.
With the college setting, a lot of the bits will wrap itself around the idea of discovering one's self. "A lot of the movie is about our relationship, going to college with your hometown honey and the world opening up to you once you get to this new place," opines Hill. Day 33 of the 55-day shoot would see the two stars dropping adlibs, yelling stupidly into smartphones and promising us plenty of surprises. In addition to filming at Tad Gormley Stadium, Lord and Miller also shot at Tulane University, Loyola University New Orleans and Xavier University of Louisiana, which will be plastered on 2015 admissions brochures. When the cameras aren't rolling, the entire cast and crew would hanker down to Channing's French Quarter bar Saints & Sinners for Hand Grenades and beignets.
Overall, the atmosphere was funny and ripe with prime comedic timing. As cinephiles will eventually seen in the trailer, Ice Cube (as Captain Dickson) gives Tatum and Hill an assignment to inflitrate MC State to break up a college drug ring. Rob Wriggle and Dave Franco are also set to return in the form of a prison cameo, but were not on the set while we were visiting. Fast forward to all the work that Chris and Phil have done since then (The Lego Movie and rumors of being involved in Ghostbusters 3) and you'd be impressed with the level of work the duo are putting out in only two years.
All in all, 22 Jump Street was an excellent experience and audiences will surely be rewarded when the project comes out on June 13.
You can watch the trailer for yourself below: