Synopsis: After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.
Every year there is a comedy that massively exceeds expectations and is both critically acclaimed (or at least not universally loathed) and makes a shit tonne of money. In 2012 that movie was 21 Jump Street. The latest in long line of 80’s TV reboots of varying quality and success, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, a talented pair of directors with an eye for slapstick comedy albeit animated (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs), and starring a pair of leads in Jonah Hill (hit and miss when it comes to comedy) and Channing Tatum who was not known at that time for having much in the way of comedy pedigree, the expectations were low. So when audiences were given a smart, laugh out loud, self aware homage to bromance with a genuinely loveable and funny lead pairing they showed their appreciation with a $140m box office haul.
Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that those kind of numbers greenlight a sequel before anyone has had a chance to say “wait……is this a good idea? I mean……can we make this funny twice?”. The Hangover Part II had left a bitter taste in the mouth. 22 Jump Street was going to have to do something special to repeat the charms of it’s first effort. This time it didn’t have the element of surprise in it’s favour.
While it doesn’t hit the charming heights of it’s predecessor 22 Jump Street is still funnier than a lot of the films that come out of the Apatow, Stiller or Rogen camps and passed the minimum laugh test with flying colours. Yes, a large share of the credit has to go down to the continued natural chemistry between off-screen friends Channing Tatum, who is fast becoming one of Hollywood’s most annoying men by being uncommonly good looking, talented, funny and fucking NICE to boot, and Jonah Hill who just dials back his normal levels of annoying. The majority of the credit though has to go to Lord and Miller who since 21 Jump Street have scored a massive amount of geek points with The Lego Move; a masterpiece of frenetic comedy slapstick and pop culture referencing.
With 22 Jump Street there is an undeniable sense that Lord and Miller didn’t want to replace the surprise by just making the same jokes again, but you know, LOUDER (take note Todd Phillips). Instead they took a leaf from their own square, nobbly Lego book and plugged any narrative holes by firing a machine gun loaded with in jokes, self referential nods to TV and cinema (a double take chase in front of the Benjamin Hill School For Film Studies will pass over a lot of people’s heads) to the ridiculous nature of sequels (Nick Offerman delivers another quality speech as their Police Capt about how because of the inexplicable success of their first “mission” the dept have doubled the budget for them to do exactly the same thing again. Because twice the budget equals twice the results….Ahem) and some well thought out set pieces lampooning their ridiculous budget. They also got more mileage than normal from Ice Cube’s particular brand of aggressive uber-frowning, giving him an expanded role as the bumbling cops’ Capt’, and giving him a storyline that plays heavy on his hard-ass persona.
It doesn’t all work quite as effortlessly as it’s predecessor though and it is certainly guilty of reverting to the “we’re doing the same shit again….AND WE KNOW IT *wink wink*” well a few too many times. It also lacks the likeable anti-heroes of the first movie, with Hill’s nemesis Mercedes (Jillian Bell) often coming across as try too hard, with the exception of a very funny and exceedingly awkward sexual tension fist fight between the two later on. The fact though that Lord and Miller managed to make a comedy sequel to a surprise hit, of which the main joke is that they are doing the same thing all over again. And that is a major achievement in itself. Also, they this review gets a whole point just for the end credit sequence which is by far the funniest joke of the entire movie. Kudos boys. Kudos.
Conclusion: Not up to the standards of the first, but in Hollywood comedy sequels are notoriously hard to get right so the fact that Miller and Lord managed to make a genuinely funny comedy in it’s own right is an achievement not to be underestimated.
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube