With their success on the original “21 Jump Street” and their first film, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and the recent worldwide hit, “The LEGO Movie,” directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have become one of the most important directorial voices in today’s film comedy genre.
Now, the duo returns to the helm the much-awaited sequel, “22 Jump Street” from Columbia Pictures. “The first movie was so innately theirs; it was distinctively Chris and Phil,” says Channing Tatum, who reprises the role of Jenko. “The biggest thing for me was that the tone was different – it had a refreshing feel and a tone I’d never seen in a movie before. That’s why I was so happy that they wanted to come back and join us for the sequel – I knew they’d make the movie something special.”
Though it was clear from the beginning that making “22 Jump Street” feel as fresh and original as the franchise’s first entry would be a challenge, it was just the kind of challenge that appealed to them. In fact, it’s easy to forget that “21 Jump Street” was no slam dunk until Lord and Miller showed how it could be done. “It seems like if there’s a project that’s really hard and there’s only one way to pull it off, that’s the kind of project we want to do,” says Lord.
“Phil and Chris are two of the kindest, nicest, hardworking guys. They really know how to instill heart into their movies,” says producer Neal H. Moritz. “Even in a completely silly comedy scene, they know how to put heart into it and track those relationships from the beginning of the film to the end and make sure that is the center of the story.”
For their part, Lord and Miller were not only excited by the chance to explore the themes of the relationship, but to play with the entire idea of making an action-comedy sequel. “What’s fun about doing this kind of a movie is you get to subvert the genre,” says Lord. “You go see a Neal Moritz movie, and you know it’s going to have a cool car chase – but we’ve got [Jonah Hill’s] Schmidt behind the wheel and he doesn’t know how to drive.”
“Other movies can do the crazy action stuff better than we can. We have to have a strong comic idea that runs through it,” says Miller. “We have to do something that has a funny idea, but also looks as badass as possible.”
Though Schmidt and Jenko forged a successful partnership in “21 Jump Street,” in many ways they have not changed. Schmidt remains neurotic and clingy; Jenko is still plagued by the doubt that he’s not smart enough to solve a case.
Though the characters are inventions, the heart of the relationship between Schmidt and Jenko is modeled after the two real-life relationships behind the cameras: the one between Lord and Miller, and the other between Hill and Tatum.
“The biggest influence we bring is understanding what it’s like to be in a long-term partnership where you don’t sleep together,” says Lord.
In fact, Lord and Miller’s friendship dates back to their own college days, and like Jenko and Schmidt, they had different commitments even as they ran in some of the same circles. In “22 Jump Street,” Jenko goes Greek and Schmidt finds friends in the arts. In real life, Miller notes, “I was in a fraternity, and Phil was in more of a socially progressive type of society.”
Let’s not mince words. “It was hippy-dippy,” says Lord. “And guess which one of those institutions is still standing? The one that’s fun.”
Still, to get a handle on how much things have changed since their college days, Lord and Miller visited a UCLA fraternity for research. As it turns out, no research was required. “It’s all the same today as it was when we were in college,” Miller concluded. “They rage and party and take terrible care of themselves.”
Opening across the Philippines in June 18, “22 Jump Street” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.