Director(s) – Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Writer(s) – Michael Bacall, Rodney Rothman
Starring – Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
There is an old saying in the entertainment industry; Lightning never strikes twice. Resurrecting an old franchise for a contemporary reboot should not work. It should come across as a lazy, half-assed attempt to cash in on a previously viable property. However, when the property itself is self-aware and satirical enough to realise this, and thus spins a negative into a positive, you get the sleeper hit that was 21 Jump Street.
When the joke is that good, there’s always a fear that a potentially unnecessary sequel could ruin everything. Fortunately, 22 Jump Street has the same irreverence and scathing satirical edge of the original, this time aiming its sights at the overblown sequel. In the process, we get a film possibly even funnier than it’s predecessor.
The storyline is, for all purposes, exactly the same as the original. Tatum and Hill play the same lovable and hapless duo, whose idiocy and inability to function as adequate police officers make them the ideal duo for the Jump Hill initiative, which involves going undercover to bust drug dealers. This time, instead of high-school, the’ll be heading back to college.
The key strength of the original in the franchise, as previously alluded to in my introduction, was the strength of the script. Drenched in irreverence and satire, this time most of the jokes are directed at the nature of the sequel, instead of the nature of reboots. This is instantaneous, as straight out the bat we get an overlong car chase, with the explosion we waited the entire first movie for deployed within the first five minutes.
The duo are then led straight to the dispatching officer from the first movie, the same one who spoke about the unnecessary and lazy nature of reboots. This time, he points out that ‘They decided that because the first Jump Street was so good, they’re going to do exactly the same thing again’. This sets the tone nicely for the self-awareness that will follow proceedings. We’re then shown Ice Cube’s new ridiculously high-tech office, which he refers to, charmingly, as ‘Some real Iron Man shit.’
This all culminates in a brilliant joke at the midpoint of the film, where, after causing a lot of collateral damage, the two officers are informed that they’ve already eaten up half of the film’s budget, and as such need to calm down on the destruction. This, in turn, leads to a hilarious car-chase where they purposely try not to break anything, and exclaim loud exasperation when their assailants do.
These, whilst some of the stronger jokes in the film, are not the only ones, by a long stretch. There is one fantastic Ice Cube moment that is physical comedy at it’s very finest. I’ll save that surprise for you, though. That’s part of the film’s possible strongest strength; it’s crammed pack with one-liners, slapstick gags, satire and general awkward humour, meaning almost everybody with any type of humour will find something to love here.
This form of universal comedy is second-nature to Miller and Lord, who have proved via this and The Lego Movie that they are some of the premier comedic directing talents in Hollywood today. Special mention to the screenwriters of course, but considering their less than stellar career tracks, it’s a certainty that Miller, Lord, Hill and Tatum made this their own.
The film also, surprisingly, has a lot more emotional weight than its predecessor. By this point, the ‘bromance’ between the two is so believable, and so genuine, primarily thanks to an insane amount of chemistry between the two leads, that it has almost become a fully-fledged romantic relationship.
This means that when the two undergo the traditional sequel separation, again alluded to as a cliche by the film itself early on, it genuinely hits home emotionally. It’s also brilliantly portrayed by ‘investigating other people’ subbing in for the classic ‘seeing other people’ line typically associated with relationships.
Both leads manage to improve on the first outing, in terms of both performances and characterisation. Tatum, in particular, gives a more layered performance as he ceases to be such a simple idiotic ‘Jock’ character, and his genuine care for people and human warmth makes him eternally endearing. Hill also sheds some of his ‘token fat nerd’ label and again gives a more mature and complex performance than before. Both however remain humorous, witty and endearing throughout.
Of course, no film is without flaws, and 22 Jump Street has a few. First, they decided to bring back easily the most annoying character from the first effort, which is disappointing. Of course, if you like that character yourself, that’s not a problem. What may be is the over-reliance on Hill’s ‘awkward’ humour, and occasionally jokes and scenarios are dragged out longer than necessary. In particular the ‘teased sexual tension’ between Hill and a female adversary towards the end of the film.
The satire is also strong, but not entirely perfect. Clearly Jump Street is targeting a larger audience than say Monty Python or South Park, the reigning kings of satire. As such, the jokes are less subtle and far more obvious, resulting in occasionally clunky dialogue. It’s occasional though, and is hardly an unforgivable crime.
I can say, with some certainty, that if you enjoyed 21 Jump Street, you’re going to adore 22. More set-pieces, more action, more irreverence, and yet the same spirit and constant audience winking of the original, this is one of the 21st century’s finer comedic outputs. Hill and Tatum both shine, whilst Miller and Lord continue to enhance an already glowing legacy.
Final Rating – 4.2