22 Jump Street Review
Reviewed by Rory McKay.
Sequels are a tricky business – it’s easy enough to start off a franchise, but then there’s the difficult job of continuing it whilst maintaining the spirit of the original – and most importantly, keeping the cash cow flowing. An awful lot of sequels have fallen victim to a lack of originality due to the need for profit – retreading the same concept in a slightly different location. So how does sequel 22 Jump Street, following the sequel formula to the letter, fare?
22 Jump Street, picks up soon after 21 Jump Street and places buddy cop duo Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) in a new(ish) setting – college. It’s a fairly safe concept for a sequel – relatively similar setting, reversed character arcs and the same ‘find the drug plot’, and could easily have qualified as one of the most cynical sequels in recent history if it was played straight. Thankfully, 22JS is very aware indeed of its status, and the meta jabs at the retreading of old concepts and the bigger budget go quite some way to justifying 22JS’ adherence to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mantra. It might get a little too wink-wink towards the end of the film, but 22 Jump Street’s self-awareness (taken up to eleven in one of the most hilarious credits sequences of all time) keeps it ahead of the pack.
22 Jump Street often runs entirely off the chemistry between its two leads – Jonah Hill remains a reliably funny comic actor (and able to sell some of the more dramatic moments too), and Channing Tatum, unexpectedly, is one of the most talented comic actors in the film – a particular minute-long scene with Tatum had the audience at this reviewer’s screening almost drowning out the film’s audio with laughter. The supporting cast are decent, too – Ice Cube receives another of the film’s crowning moments, and Peter Stormare is effective as the weirdly-accented villain of the plot. The two leads play off each other expertly, and any scene where both (or even just one) of them are featured are hilarious.
The actual plot itself is fairly generic and flawed – a search for a drug going through college. There are some effective dramatic moments and the film throws up a couple of good twists and turns, but the actual plot of the film (as the two suffer ‘relationship issues’ and Jenko finds a possible new future as an American football player) is a weak, by-the-book one, complete with a fairly typical relationship subplot for Jonah Hill’s Schmidt (though the payoff is worth it in spades). Thankfully, 22 Jump Street compensates for the weak plot with enough hilarious moments to keep viewers laughing past the creakier moments. For a film with a relatively long running time by comedy’s standards, 22 Jump Street rarely flags – there’s a small slump towards the end of the second act, but the film picks up again for a thrilling, hilarious and quite surprising finale that more than makes up for the small slip into well-covered, slightly generic’dramatic’ territory.
Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are the toast of Hollywood at the moment after February’s phenomenal The Lego Movie – and the direction of 22JS is great, the directors showing that they have quite the talent with big-budget action sequences and chases as well as the smaller-scale comedic scenes that make up most of the film. Lord and Miller aren’t afraid to slip into slightly less realistic territory either – a hilarious, psychedelic scene early on in the movie looks like it’s been ripped out of a student animation, yet Lord and Miller manage still to make it another excellent moment peppered with visual gags. 22 Jump Street is best when it veers into the absurd – such as a chase scene where part is sped up briefly – and Lord and Miller once again prove that no matter what type of scene they’re tackling, they remain superb directors.
22 Jump Street is not without its flaws – a standard plot and rote dramatic moments somewhat spoil the fun towards the end, but it’s still a frequently inspired, hilarious comedy that manages to poke fun at itself whilst still remaining entertaining – and with a glorious credits sequence packed to the rafters with cameos and gags of its own to boot. Lord and Miller remain the kings of franchises – but what will they tackle next?