Early results are looking good — “21 Jump Street” is poised for a $30 million plus debut, unprecedented for a non-summer R-rated film (read our highly positive review here). Action comedies are a tough sell, but Sony handled this one masterfully, finding a way to guide an older brand name to massive appeal amongst younger audiences (plus hiring two smart directors who knocked the final product out of the park). And now they’re ready to do it again, enrolling Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall (co-writer of “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World“) to return for scripting duties on a sequel.
Hill, who’ll return to star alongside Channing Tatum thanks to what is likely one of those unbreakable franchise-trilogy contracts, is again onboard to develop and finesse the story with Bacall, who will again be solo on scripting duties. Bacall, a former “Inglourious Basterd,” has been highly in demand after the success of both this as well as the no-budget hit “Project X.” Despite supposedly “inspiring” a rash of irresponsible suburban parties, “Project X” has so far grossed $44 million in less than three weeks, and like “Jump Street,” has kickstarted plans for a Bacall-penned follow-up. He’s also written a “Tropic Thunder” spinoff for Tom Cruise‘s Les Grossman character, and a fictionalized adaptation of “The King Of Kong,” though both projects have an understandable lack of traction of late.
It would be nice to see Bacall channel his obvious knack for capturing the voice of today’s youth into something more worthy than sequels and spinoffs. However, “21 Jump Street” was the rare American comedy with considerable heights of pure daffiness, and together with Hill’s contributions, it’s likely the second go-round will be nearly as inspired as the first. While the final scene of the first film might as well have its characters holding out two fingers towards the audience a la “Ghostbusters,” let’s hope Bacall and Hill seize the opportunity to buck convention. The last thing we need is for “21 Jump Street” to become a bloated modern day mash-up of “Superbad” and “Lethal Weapon.”