Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Directed by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Peter Stomare
“Do the same thing again” wryly states Nick Offerman’s deadpanned police chief in a scene intentionally reminiscent of the original during the opening of 22 Jump Street, “and everyone’s happy”. It’s a mantra frustratingly followed by nearly all of summer’s blockbuster sequels, the idea that audiences will be unquestionably happy to sit through a film that more or less echoes its predecessor. That is, providing the latest instalment has bigger explosions, faster cars, hotter women etc. Infused with such a spirit, 22 Jump Street rarely deviates from the formula of the flawless first film. However, it soon becomes clear that it doesn’t really need to.
So once again we find Jenko and Schmidt assigned with going undercover, this time at MC State College, in order to bring down a drug ring that’s selling a dangerous synthetic substance to the younger generation. Soon enough, the pressure of college life and their different hierarchical places within the student system begin to drive a wedge between the duo’s partnership.
Any reservations you may have for a sequel that actively states its generic intentions are understandable, but almost immediately quashed. Though the writing team – which consists of Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman working from an idea crafted by Bacall and Jonah Hill – may have recycled the plot, they have taken the opportunity to focus on writing funnier jokes. The film’s lampooning of the genre conventions is more robust, its observations on student life have greater poise, and its juvenility is almost off the scale. Moreover, released in a summer season that’s almost entirely comprised of sci-fi spectacle, Jump Street succeeds in achieving a sense of freshness few could have envisaged.
That directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller didn’t feel the need to make any revisions to the script epitomises their confidence in it and justly so. The reversal of Jenko and Schmidt’s roles from the first film is neatly handled, with Jenko now finding himself the one breaking out with a popular group of friends. Other characters meanwhile – particularly Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson, whose breakdown during a college breakfast may well turn out to be the funniest scene of the year – are skilfully fleshed out.
Propelling the film forward though is Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill’s naturally assured chemistry. Whereas other buddy cop partnerships, notably Bad Boys’ Marcus and Mike, are designed to monotonously bicker like a stereotypical couple, Jenko and Schmidt are characterized with a deeply held sense of respect and trust for one another. Their partnership is intelligently constructed like a romantic relationship, imbuing their quarrels with a relatable component that juxtaposes perfectly with the ridiculousness of the situations. Both performers are undoubtedly at the top of their game here, consistently nailing the comedic beats while remaining convincing during the occasional moments of tenderness.
The film’s length does unfortunately weigh it down during the second act, with the writers using the lead’s relentless banter to mask the fact that the narrative is moving slowly. However, even this problem is addressed sooner rather than later, with a plot twist between Jonah Hill and his new ladylove, a likeable Amber Stevens, paving the way for some of the film’s funniest moments.
In fact the only thing the film ever seems to truly lack is a villain. Though Peter Stormare brings gravitas to his miniscule part, the other antagonists never receive the development Dave Franco had in the first film. Meaning that while it is exhilarating, the gung-ho finale is never able to hold as much excitement as it would probably like to.
The question of whether Jenko and Schmidt will ever return to our screens is referenced throughout. However, a riotous final joke that lasts well in to the closing credits seems to suggest that though there are limitless possibilities for further instalments, this will probably be their final cinematic outing. If that is the case then they probably couldn’t have gone out in a bigger blaze of glory, with a sequel that does indeed leave everyone feeling momentously happy.