22 Jump Street is an odd one as far as sequels go. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination but it is almost daring you to call it just another daft Hollywood sequel. Before you can jump up and squeal “they’re doing the same thing” Nick Offerman comes on and stresses the fact that things are being done just as before i.e. in 21 Jump Street.
In 21 Jump Street, officers Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) went undercover at a high school to bust a drug ring. In this film, it’s college and as is repeated over again, they are to do the same thing; infiltrate and find the suppliers. The script credited Michael Bacall isn’t afraid to laugh at the movie being a sequel in these cynical times or the fact it is based on a TV show; two things that are more often than not a recipe for disaster. Indeed, the film opens with an episodic recap of the previous film akin to procedural TV shows. This self-awareness isn’t really surprising considering directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, are the hands behind The Lego Movie. Jokes about sterile sequels follow and jives concerning flashier set ups, doubled budgets and expected returns are squeezed in, to great effect. Jenko and Schmidt are tasked with infiltrating the college campus as undercover students and blood brothers to investigate a deadly candy looking drug known as Whyphy (pronounced Wi-Fi).
Seeing as it is a comedy, I was always going to judge it on how much I laughed and boy does it deliver. Early on we see our two knuckle heads involved in a sting operation that sees Hill give his best Latino gangster impression. This opening illustrates the ever-present chemistry between Tatum and Hill which anchors the film amidst the balanced transition between humour and action. The first film starts and plays through high school and we basically get to see them relive that period although with a role reversal during their undercover op. This time there is a sense of what might have been surrounding our duo as they live out their respective college experiences. They were worlds apart in high school (the real time) with Jenko being the tall, athletic ladies’ man and Schmidt the nerdy outcast Slim Shady wanna be.
This contrast between the two plays out in college as Jenko gets into football (the American kind) which is no surprise and fits in with the other alpha male types as they hang out, work out day and night and party hard. Schmidt on the other hand develops into the rejection prone loner type which, let’s be frank, was going to happen had he left for college immediately after high school. Jenko becomes best buds with teammate quarter back Zook and they do everything short of giving each other hand jobs in a relationship that carries a gay vibe. Schmidt meanwhile hooks up with a real cutie named Maya in the only substantive relationship he forms on campus. Maya is out of his league but that goes without saying and some might say he is the “bitch” of this relationship (he is involved in two hilarious walks of shame here).
As good as the earlier repetition gags are, the film knows its gold is in our protagonists’ bromance. The two have grown ridiculously close and again the latent homosexual tendencies come to the fore. We watch them bicker about how close or apart their getting, how they don’t spend enough time with each other and some couples counselling is even thrown in. I was waiting for All by my Self to make an appearance on the soundtrack or at least Jenko looking through the rain beaten window. Those clichés would not have been out of place here. The film goes with this play without being tired of its central relationship and frankly we enjoy watching the ups and downs amidst the blissfully silly gags and set pieces.
The film doesn’t offer much by way of police work or brilliant action sequences. The whole thing is basic and procedural, a joke it stresses time and time again and one we still find amusing off over half way through the movie. You sense they don’t really care about long and loud gunfights all though we get our slow motions, car chases and explosions but the director is still looking to draw laughs out of these moments and, hey, that is why most of us came in to see this film.
I struggle to think of any buddy cop movie that stands up to 22 Jump Street or its predecessor comedy wise; Hot Fuzz, The Other Guys maybe? It doesn’t really matter. This is undoubtedly the funniest film of the year so far and it does well to build on the crux of its predecessor i.e. the relationship between the two. We get to see more of Ice Cube in the best moments on screen and big ups to the post credit sequences. It does this thing in the movie 8 Mile where B-rabbit in the rap battle proceeds to dis himself before his rival can. We are taken through a number of possible sequels to this movie before the gags start. It seems to go on forever but still it’s priceless. Throw in a good follow up and we start talking up this film of one of the best comic trilogies of all time.