It was supposed to be the epic crossover film of the decade: Men in Black merging with Jump Street, bringing together two great comedy franchises to elevate both. The success of both respective franchises was enough to let the idea take root in the minds of creatives on both sides but after years of trying to hash out details and ensure both franchises would get a fair shake, the crossover film was eventually scrapped.
Men in Black was a beloved '90s comedy (based on a lesser-read comic) that spawned two more films in 2002 and 2012. Focusing on the adventures of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith), members of the secret alien task force known as the Men in Black, all three films were box office hits and the first remains a high watermark of sci-fi comedy.
Meanwhile, actors Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum were paired with directing team Phil Lord and Chris Miller to reboot the '80s TV series 21 Jump Street and gave the franchise a much-needed breath of fresh air. With its meta, self-referential jokes and winning combo of Hill and Tatum, the two Jump Street movies earned their due praise.
Considering how well-respected both franchises were, there was a time when it felt like even the flimsiest idea could net big results. Let's break down what happened with the Men in Black-Jump Street crossover film, from its early days of possibility to its downfall to what is on the horizon for both franchises.
Yes, The Men In Black/Jump Street Movie Was A Real Thing
The idea of a Men in Black-Jump Street crossover isn't some fan speculation, but an all too real idea. The Sony leaks scandal of 2014 bore lots of fruit which won't be unpacked here, save for one thing: there was the revelation of plans to move forward with a Men in Black-Jump Street crossover film.
This was later made official, 21 and 22 Jump Street screenwriter Rodney Rothman on scripting duties. James Bobin (The Muppets, Alice Through the Looking Glass) was later attached to the project. By April 2016, reports emerged the new working title for the crossover film was MIB 23. Hill and Tatum were also attached to the film by 2016 but Men in Black stars Smith and Jones were not; at the time, Smith was working on Suicide Squad for Warner Bros. and Jones was working on Jason Bourne.
Shortly after these reports, however, progress on the crossover film seemed to stall.
The Men In Black/Jump Street Movie Was Canceled Because The Idea Was Too Complicated
MIB 23 spent four years trying to come together but to no avail. In January 2019, it was reported the Men in Black-Jump Street crossover had been canceled. And, as promising as it had seemed, the reasons why were rooted in the core pitch.
Back in 2016, Jump Street star Jonah Hill revealed in an interview that a deal would likely not come together because it was just too complicated for the Men in Black and Jump Street teams to come to a deal that worked for them both. As reported by the Toronto Sun, Hill shared:
"It’s too complicated. 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."
The idea that it proved too tricky to successfully merge the Men in Black and Jump Street worlds was confirmed three years later, in 2019, by Men in Black producer Walter Parkes to Empire magazine: "We gave it a shot. It turned out to be an impossible match-up."
As exciting as it would have been to see these worlds collide, it's understandable why the crossover got killed before it got off the ground. Hill said the idea he pitched revolved around "Will Smith’s Agent Jay and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent Kay would be replaced by 'younger' actors." It's an admittedly tenuous idea for what should be such a big crossover event and it's imaginable working from that simple pitch unnerved creatives on both sides. Also, upon further reflection, there probably would have need to be significant tonal changes to either the Men in Black or the Jump Street side since the former works within a PG-13 framework and the latter is very much an R-rated franchise; altering either of those franchises to get on equal footing doesn't sound like it would be too successful.
Men In Black: International Replaced The Jump Street Idea
The DNA of what a Men in Black-23 Jump Street could have been certainly feels like it lives within Men in Black: International. Much like 2012's 21 Jump Street helped reboot the franchise while also delivering plenty of tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating, and occasionally self-aware jokes aimed at the TV show it was based on and the genre it was working within, MIB 4 seems to be doing much of the same.
As the fourth film in the Men in Black franchise with all-new characters - played by Thor's Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson - jumping into the world created in three previous films, International is able to both poke fun at the absurdity of the world it's working within while toying with tropes or character dynamics within the film for refreshing comedic effect. To this end, the Jump Street vibe arguably lives on even if the collaboration is dead. Whether it leads to a full resurgence of the series and a Men in Black 5 remains to be seen.
24 Jump Street Is Coming (Yes, 24)
Not moving forward with a Men in Black crossover film was no doubt a blow to the long-term plans in place for the Jump Street franchise, which also had a female spinoff in development around the same time as MIB 23. After gestating for the better part of four years and it all comes crashing to a halt, where exactly do you go from here?
According to 21 and 22 Jump Street co-director Phil Lord, 24 Jump Street (yes, it's really "24" and not "23") is in development. He went on to clarify his remarks, saying, "We're reserving 23 Jump Street." Lord's implication seems to be there are still plans to make a 23 Jump Street but it will buck expectations and come after 24. Lord and his Jump Street co-director Chris Miller are known for subverting expectations in their films, including the Jump Street films, so it's likely this reversal of titles will do the same thing. Whether or not the films continue to tell a linear story in the way 21 and 22 Jump Street did, with the latter carrying on the story from the former, remains to be seen.
Lord's comments were so vague it was difficult to tell where in the development process 24 Jump Street is, if Tatum and Hill will reprise their Jump Street roles, when filming will begin, what the plot is, or any other pertinent information. But, hopefully, it means the brush in with the Men in Black hasn't slowed down Jenko and Schmidt.
- Men in Black International (2019) release date: Jun 14, 2019