Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube
Genre: Comedy/ Action
After the eventual (and surprising) success of the first assignment and their inability to handle real police work, now Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) find themselves once again undercover However this time they are sent to College to find the source of a new super drug known as WHY-FHY. However, once there they inevitably make new friends and find out new things about themselves that tests their relationship and may compromise the mission.
When I first heard that they were making 21 Jump Street I sighed to myself as I was expecting yet another lowest common denominator mainstream comedy. However when I finally got round to watching it I was pleasantly surprised to see what was actually a very funny film with two genuinely amusing leading performances. Well, going by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s screenplay for 22 Jump Street, so was everyone else, and they very much know it. I am pretty sure we have all seen Nick Offerman’s speech in the trailer about how they got lucky with the first mission, now they are investing in a more expensive mission that will be more of the same, but probably not as good blah, blah, blah.
Well this is one of a few running gags throughout the narrative of 22 Jump Street, which is admittedly the territory for a comedy becoming self indulgent, complacent and lazy. Lord and Miller almost did the impossible by making The Lego Movie one of the universally funniest films of the year so far, and with that and now 22 Jump Street have really mastered the art of creating self referential and self aware comedy that manages to still feel genuinely inventive and energetic, and most importantly be genuinely funny. It may lack the panache of 21 Jump Street and is certainly even lighter on actual plot, but 22 Jump Street is still one of the funniest mainstream comedies of the year so far. Well, after The Lego Movie and The Grand Budapest Hotel, I would say it is the funniest mainstream comedy of the year so far.
It is this speech of Offerman that almost makes amateur film reviewers like myself obsolete; 22 Jump Street is indeed more of the same, with more money put into it and it is in fact not as good as the first time. However, Lord and Miller are certainly fully aware of what film they are making; never trying to make anything they are not, they know very well what the audience wants, and on the whole, deliver the goods. Though some of the constant self referential jokes do not always hit the mark, they never get lazy and the entire film is made with a constant energy and high gag rate; allowing it to just focus on being very silly fun. For me, what made 21 Jump Street great fun was the chemistry and comic timing between Tatum and Hill, and it is their bromance that provides the engagement and energy that masterfully disguises an extremely wafer thin plot. Their increasingly homoerotic relationship pretty much IS the plot, but when the two leads work so well together then that is perfectly forgivable. An actual attempt at a serious plot would definitely weigh the film down at the expense of laughs, and let’s face it: no one is going to see this film for the plot anyway.
The actual drug bust plot is very lame (that also the victim the self mockery by the script, so arguable part of the point) and this provides the action set pieces that are admittedly not particularly exciting, but certainly functional. It is once again the gags within the set pieces that make them work as there is never a sense of genuine peril, and nor should there be. It is the constant energy, and Lord and Miller’s tendency to constantly go over the top that means the lame and ill disciplined plot do not hamper 22 Jump Street from being such fun. Admittedly the film is a tad too long, with a good 15-20 minutes that could have easily stayed on the editing room floor and the occasional joke misfires, but as a piece of pure entertainment that contains genuine laughs, then 22 Jump Street delivers.
Though of course the stars are very much Tatum and Hill, with the entire film rightfully built around their relationship and its hilarious developments, a special mention has to go to Ice Cube. He is given the stage to overact as much as possible, and he certainly does with extreme relish, but as with so many aspects of the two Jump Street films, it should not really work just as well as it does. The film never runs out of energy, with both Lord and Miller and Tatum, Hill and Ice Cube never resting on their laurels, and this is proven in the uproarious closing credit sequence, which is surely the funniest closing credit sequence of the year, if not of all time. Though 22 Jump Street is a rightful 15, it is full credit to creativity of the filmmakers and the actors that swear words are not used as often in this as other mainstream comedies.
Once again Lord and Miller tread that fine line between self aware and self mocking comedy and lazy self indulgent smugness with the result being very much the former. They do admittedly warn you that it will not be as good as its predecessor, but with a constant energy from start to finish and great chemistry between Tatum and Hill, the gags hit far more often than they miss, to produce one of the year’s best mainstream comedies.