22 Jump Street – Review

 

“No one expected anything from the Jump Street reboot”, Nick Offerman declares early on in 22 Jump Street; and he’s absolutely right. Sure, the gamble paid off for Phil Lord & Christopher Miller with their 2012 action meta-comedy, but expectations were hardly high going in. Despite those expectations, what immediately set the film apart from the likes of other eighties TV reboots was a prevalent meta-texture the film clung onto throughout. It was a dynamite formula: got a clichéd angry black police captain? Have him revel in and celebrate being exactly that. Action conventions? Do the opposite. And whilst only 2004’s Starsky & Hutch had previously attempted to satirically explore the notion of buddy-cop homoeroticism, 21 Jump Street took it a step further and laid it out cold as a genuine men-at-arms romcom. But can the sequel possibly live up to what came before? As Offerman himself states, “it’s always worse the second time around”. Thankfully, Offerman’s words are merely part of the newly beefed-up meta-text on offer in 22 Jump Street; one of the few sequels that can genuinely claim to not only live up to its predecessor, but to surpass it as well.

 

Stuck in a (somewhat explosive) rut following their success in the first movie, Schmidt and Jenko (the always engaging Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) are called back to Jump Street (now a Vietnamese chuch at #22 – the Koreans bought #21) and assigned to “do the same thing again” when they’re sent to college to investigate a deadly new designer drug known as WhyPhy. Despite their strong partnership, the duo soon discover that the college lifestyle is different for everyone; and while Jenko pursues a lead in the world of football and fraternities, Schmidt finds himself pushed out of his partner’s life and forced to pursue his own angle. Can the pair close the rift between them before WhyPhy finds it’s way outside of Metro City State? Can Schmidt master basic physical activity? Can Jenko find where he truly belongs? And most importantly, why does their captain’s new office look like a giant ice cube? 

 

Opening with a hilariously conventional “Previously on…” segment, Lord & Miller’s intent from literally the first frame is one of clear defiance of convention. These are the tropes, these are the clichés, these are the jokes you loved in the last one… now let’s flip them on their heads; but where 22 truly triumphs in its continuous use of bait and switch tactics. With the aid of some of the funniest visual gags in any mainstream Hollywood movie this side of 2010, the events of the first film are satirically repeated again and again – even down to a narrative level – only for some very sharp writing to take your established expectations and divert them with a hard left onto even funnier terrain. There are expanded aspects to Michael Bacall and Oren Uziel’s scripted sequel that you simply never imagined they’d consider; with one interpersonal relationship – established as a minor gag in the first movie – here blown up into one of the sequel’s strongest (and indeed, funniest) storylines.

 

It’s such a good sequel in fact, that even its minor flaws happen to be the exact ones prevalent last time around; largely an overlong runtime, a slightly baggy second act and a somewhat disposable plot destined to be cast by the wayside in favour of action and/or comedy. None of these matter however when a movie is as unashamedly fun and refreshingly glib as 22 Jump Street. It’s a gobsmackingly intelligent exploration of action-movie conventions, rammed full of offhand references, clever cameos, background gags (one of which specifically will blow the roof off of a British multiplex with laughter) and even wink-wink nods to other action movies – going so far as to swipe Bad Boys II’s narrative gimmick of popping on holiday for the third act. As an action movie, it’s great; as a comedy, it’s even better – hell, if Ice Cube’s methods of portioning out a buffet don’t have you in utter hysterics then it’s possible you’re dead inside. It’s a rapid-fire comedy that rivals some of the best, with a laugh ratio that manages to approach even the likes of Airplane and The Naked Gun.

 

On the casting front, neither Hill nor Tatum get much more to do in the sequel than they had previously, yet they’re so at home in their dynamic that it’s hard not take every up and down with complete sincerity. Tatum’s Jenko continues to suffer from a woefully inconsistent level of intelligence, while Hill’s whining can still be a tad cumbersome; yet the pair together are such a solid double-act that all is instantly forgivable. Elsewhere, Ice Cube receives a deservedly amped-up role this time out, and Nick Offerman sees his screen time almost tripled, granting us still nowhere near enough of the deadpan humour that makes Offerman as brilliant as he truly is. Amber Stevens meanwhile proves an engaging (if disposable) love-interest; and lastly, but in keeping with action movie conventions, Peter Stormare (yet another Bad Boys II nod) takes on the token villain role, turning in his usual salivating performance but sadly finding himself hindered by a lack of screen time that leaves his character merely an archetype at best.

 

Overall, there’s truly something for everyone in 22 Jump Street; there’s an engaging action-comedy for the everyman, an astoundingly clever (if more obvious than before) meta-text and satirical edge for the cineliterate, and just a good-time movie for everyone. The boys are back and they’re funnier than ever; and while 22 Jump Street may not turn out to be as rewatchable as the more stripped-down series opener, it’s an armchair-grippingly hilarious action comedy that shows us what a sequel needs to be and proves that the partnership of Lord & Miller is something we should all thank Vietnamese Jesus for.

 

 

Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.

 

In it
Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube

Behind it
Phil Lord, Christopher Miller




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