It has been two years since the cinematic remake of nineteen eighties police procedural 21 Jump Street hit the big screen and surprised everybody with its glorious self awareness and unreserved comic satire. The film really hit the sweet spot in terms of nostalgia, reverence for the source material and struck gold with the chemistry of the on screen partnership between leading men Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Two years later and we have finally been given what was promised at the end of the first film, a sequel, a sequel that sends our two hapless but hearty undercover cops not back to high school, but to college. Could the unexpected delight of 21 Jump Street be replicated to the same degree in 22 Jump Street? I really, really, hoped so.
I am pleased to say, it really, really, did. In fact, I would go so far to say that 22 Jump Street has joined the very small and exclusive club of sequels that are better than their predecessors. The premise, as the script goes to great and effective pains to say, is almost entirely identical to that of the the first film. Police officers Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are tasked once again with going under cover in an attempt to locate the supplier of an emerging drug before it filters in to winder distribution. In a logical and comically arranged progression, the two suspiciously old looking men are planted amongst college students, and the successful formula of 21 Jump Street begins to take immediate effect, with Schmidt and Jenko assuming roles within their new community to different degrees of social acceptance and success. The self referential nature of the franchise is turned all the way up to eleven this time round to brilliant effect, the fourth wall is broken on multiple occasions but the audience just do now care because they are having such a fun ride. Nothing about the humour is particularly intelligent or groundbreaking, though admittedly it is a level above the likes of The Hangover, and funny regardless. As with most comedies not all of the jokes come off as intended, but a strong level of consistent humour is upheld throughout the narrative and there was very little that I didn’t at least raise a chuckle to. I would be the first to admit that I am not usually a fan of male driven, college humour movies, but there is something about the sensibility of the Jump Street series that makes it incredibly hard not to love. It is almost as if the filmmakers’ wish is for the audience to be involved in the joke rather than the joke being presented in front of them, and the resulting frivolity that the cinematic style produces in one of endless fun. One of the most improved aspects of 22 Jump Street in comparison to the 2012 original is its plethora of much more engaging and enjoyable supporting characters. This time the comic responsibilities do not lay solely in the hands of Hill and Tatum, and the film really benefits from being able to entertain the audience in more than the ways that they were used to from the previous film.
As with the first in the series, the films beating heart lays in the relationship and chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. They are by no means the first cinematic duo of this kind we have ever seen, indeed many films rely on the ‘opposites attract’ qualities in their attempts for buddy movie success. There is just something so sincere and enjoyable about the pair together that they really are a joy to watch. Both specialise in different types of humour, Hill getting his laughs from self deprecation and Tatum not afraid to exploit his looks and play dumb for the balance of comedy. As I stated above, the film is made even stronger by significantly better supporting roles tis time around, the chiefest of these being an extended part for Ice Cube as operations boss Captain Dickson. Perhaps the funniest sequence of the entire film comes from Ice Cube’s ability to convey so much with just facial expression, wonderful to see him redeem himself after the disaster that was Ride Along. Also due for praise is Jillian Bell as college roommate Mercedes, whose comic delivery and hilarious screen presence is reminiscent of Rebel Wilson.
Overall, 22 Jump Street isn’t the most intelligent or groundbreaking comedy you will see this year, but it might just be the most enjoyable. The filmmakers have unashamedly exploited the successful formula of the first film, but it is precisely what the audience wanted so who can hold it against them? The first two movies in the Jump Street franchise have surpassed all expectations, and though the closing credits poke fun at the repetitive nature of the series by showing posters all the way up to and past ‘Jump Street 45’, I for one would not be against continuing the fun. There is no danger of damaging integrity, the series is so self referential about the fact that is barely had any to begin with. If it ain’t broke, why stop it?