As the Muppets told us earlier this year, despite the best of intentions the sequel is ‘never quite as good.’ Well, that little slice of fourth wall breaking, meta humour was tame compared to what goes on in this follow up to 2012’s reboot of 21 Jump Street, a little known TV series updated for the multiplexes, as directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The LEGO Movie) return to turn everything up to 11 in a sequel that while not better, is certainly not worse, but aptly just as good as the first.
The running gag in 22 Jump Street is that it’s exactly the same movie just bigger and more expensive, as every sequel seems to be. The stunts are bigger, the scope is bigger, the sets are bigger, the cast is bigger but Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) once again go undercover to sniff out a new drug that has killed a student, only this time they’re undercover in college and not high school. It really is EXACTLY the same movie that hits more or less the same beats as the first film did, just bigger. All of which would seem lazy in any other movie if it weren’t for the barrage of brilliant gags and the fact that the filmmakers mock the fact that it’s the same film every chance they get, most notably in a gag involving 23 Jump Street being built across the road from their current HQ. To quote Nick Offerman’s police captain: “No one cared about the Jump Street reboot, but you got lucky. So now this department has invested a lot of money to keep the programme going.” The story isn’t the main concern here, as it’s just basically a framework to lay joke upon joke upon joke on, something the film does admirably.
The monumentally stupid humour mined here is a kind you can only get away with if your script is very clever. Gladly, the script by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill is just that with the jokes never coming at the expense of the characters or feeling like a cheap gag (Well, maybe the Benny Hill one; but that’s incredibly funny so we’ll let it slide). Like the first which cleverly took digs at high school life, here we have neat twists on standard college tropes in movies; the walk of shame stands out as a particular highlight. And although the film sacrifices in depth character development and any semblance of plot, it more than makes up for it with genuine belly laughs, which are slow to start – the first half hour is relatively chuckle light – but once they do, the laughs don’t stop even when we’re in the middle of a manic action scene.
The lovably dim witted Jenko is once again the breakout star of the film, and Tatum, an incredibly likable screen presence, has perfected his comic timing further since the first film (his moment of realisation and subsequent freakout ranks as easily one of the funniest scenes of this, or any, year) and is fast turning Jenko into a comedy character you want to see more and more of. Jonah Hill plays…well, Jonah Hill, but it’s such a well played routine it still gets big laughs. It’s Ice Cube, in an expanded role this time, however who gets the biggest laughs of the movie, simply by getting more and more angry as the events spiral out of control; a lunch date where he says nothing, but stares daggers at Schmidt is one of the many times I hurt from laughing so hard.
22 Jump Street is basically Hot Fuzz turned up to 11, culminating in a finale that’s as hilarious as it is exciting. And the film ends with one of the most inspired credit sequences you’ll ever see.
Knowing, self aware, and very very funny. You’ll want to see every single one of the touted sequels.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
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