It doesn’t take a genius to work out that 22 Jump Street is a sequel to 21 Jump Street. It’s numerically one larger after all and everybody knows it; you know it, the cast know it, the directors know it – everybody. As an audience we should be most thankful that the screenwriters are acutely aware of this and have chosen to create a film that dares to grind on the line between shameless repetition and sharp originality.
If you’re struggling to remember what happened in the first film, have no fear, a ‘previously on’ segment is the first thing you’ll see and besides, the plot of this one is uncannily similar to the first outing. The duo of Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are back for some more undercover snooping to find the world’s most obvious drug. Seriously, the drugs in this film look like bright stickers and I’m pretty sure they have skulls on them. Not exactly covert. As far as changes, high school is upgraded to college and then we’re ready for the action to commence.
One of the biggest selling points of this film is the chance to see Hill and Tatum reunite to continue their bromance as an unlikely couple, their partnership itself providing some of the more generic laughs, but laughs nonetheless. What is surprising is that Tatum turns out to be a better comedic performer than Hill. As a double act they’re great but the films weaker moments are definitely when they split and we have to follow the latter. Ice Cube makes a welcome return as the angriest of police captains and he gets enough lines so that his snarling act isn’t overused. The story does revolve around Hill and Tatum but it’s well written enough so that supporting players get their chance to deliver laughs.
The humour consists primarily of a spirited nudge in the ribs of sequels in general, and by extension the film itself, resulting in a truck-load of meta gags. The script plunges head-first into references and self-awareness and Nick Offerman’s briefing speech as Deputy Chief Hardy is just the beginning of this vein as he spells out the reason why you’re watching another edition of Jump Street. It’s a hilarious moment that oddly enough went completely over the heads of most of the audience I saw it with which made it all the funnier! There are so many fantastic moments of meta-humour; a nod to White House Down (Tatum starred in it), Benny Hill, and a chase where ‘the budget’ is the main concern. For all their enthusiasm, at times I wondered if the writers had pushed the references too much (The heroes are continually being told to ‘do the same as before’), but 22 Jump Street manages to set up enough jokes conventionally and then deliver punchlines in unexpected fashion that it kept me laughing. The end credits scene might just be the funniest I’ve seen in ages – do not leave your seat so quickly.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have honed their energetic directorial style to perfection with the first Jump Street, as well as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the runaway hit The Lego Movie and again it makes for a very enjoyable movie here – if one joke doesn’t land there’ll be another very soon after it. I really get a sense of fun in the production whenever I see one of their films.
As with many sequels 22 Jump Street falls only slightly short of its predecessor, but by gunning for the we-know-its-a-sequel winks, it retains the freshness of the original outing. If you enjoyed 21, 22 will be right up your (jump) street.