FILM REVIEW: 22 Jump Street
BY Matt Tate
Stars: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell, Peter Stormare and Amber Stevens.
21 Jump Street was a gleeful re-imagining of a long-forgotten American police drama from the late 1980’s. The film poked fun at not only its own legacy but the action genre itself. It had one of the most ingenious cameos in recent memory and launched an unlikely comic duo in Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum that felt fresh. It was then, unlikely that directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who return for the sequel, would be able to re-create that wacky fun they engineered in the first film without it feeling slightly repetitive. Brilliantly, it would appear that they harboured the same concerns, and instead of pretending to have an original new premise, the film has a cheeky self-awareness and constantly reminds you that it really isn’t trying to be a lot different. This series has a tendancy of not taking itself remotely seriously, and because we know the directors are admitting that from the off, it makes the film infinitely more enjoyable. This is a stupider version of a stupid action film.
Tatum and Hill take the lead again as the endearingly useless Schmidt and Jenko, building on their unlikely friendship from the first film. Neither are good enough to be proper policemen, but a specialised department on Jump Street deploys them as undercover school pupils, and this time college students, to expose drug rings far too absurd to ever risk being critiqued for their believability. Ice Cube is back as Captain Dickson, who runs the Jump Street Unit, now pimped up with pointlessly expensive gadgets, much to his joy. He still seems to hate his recruits, and a later plot twist amplifies this to a whole new level. But nevertheless, Schmidt and Jenko are assigned another job. They are to be sent to college to investigate a mysterious drug called ‘wyphy’, and like the first movie, they both fully embrace their roles. Jenko is a natural fit for the college football team, and Schmidt muscles in with the Merlot-sipping art students.
There are plenty of laugh out loud moments here, chiefly the endless wisecracks about their ages, and a standout scene involving Schmidt being forced to take part in some impromptu poetry at an open mic night. But the two leads are at their best when they are together. Tatum appears to have acknowledged that the market for Hollywood heart throbs is an over-saturated one, and he’s carved out a niche by playing Jenko as the loveably dopey and humble jock that really cares about his friend. He’s actually very funny too, and it is lucky the double act works so well, as most of the other characters are a bit flat in comparison.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of 22 Jump Street will depend a lot on whether you liked its predecessor. This is very similar fare, so much so that it wants you to be in on the joke. It is on the most part a riotously silly popcorn comedy, and by the end I suspect most will be ready to part ways with the series with fond memories. Again, judging by the credits sequence, a joke montage of countless obscure sequels to come, it seems the directors agree. Well, I hope they are joking anyway.