22 Jump Street is the sequel to deconstruct all sequels. Directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller stage an intervention with the Hollywood studio system over the frivolity of a cashed up second helping while being clever enough to not become a victim.
Police agents Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are recruited by the ’22 Jump Street’ program, a well-funded evolution of the successful high school ’21 Jump Street’ program (Lord and Miller’s meta sequel’s cogs churning). Schmidt and Jenko’s mission is to go undercover at a local college and find a drug dealer.
Babushka doll comedy is what Lord and Miller deliver via a punchy script from Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman (based on a story by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill) with jokes within jokes within jokes. The overarching gag is that Schmidt and Jenko are expected to do the same thing again because it worked, a heavily lidded wink at the audience, but from the inside of 22 Jump Street it’s a mad house that’s continually unpacking itself with the action films and sequel foibles Lord and Miller lovingly parody. Ice Cube’s angry 1980s inspired police commander is still a riot, you wouldn’t be wrong for mistaking Schmidt and Jenko with Riggs and Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon, and there’s a huge the sun scorched Michael Bay inspired spring break sequence toward the finale complete with the iconic plane flyover.
The humour travels at the speed of light almost reaching the comedic equivalent of an event horizon. Lord and Miller take full opportunity of the college setting to riff on the student lifestyle with football, frats and the dreaded ‘walk of shame’. 22 Jump Street keeps bending in on itself with more self-referential jokes over the ridiculousness of the police program and how old Schmidt and Jenko look compared to the other students; all delivered by a hilariously blunt student played by Jillian Bell who demands to be cast in everything after this film.
It’s still amazing how well Hill and Tatum work together as a team. Both are acutely aware of their personas both inside and outside of the film and aren’t afraid to ridicule themselves. Tatum has got the male bimbo act down to a fine art and he’s fearless in the face of lampooning his action hero status. Hill amplifies the neurotic side of Schmidt because the character is agitated by Jenko’s ability to fit in at college; a reversal of the first film. A subplot of Schmidt and a love interest is a little laboured at first but it pays off spectacularly and Hill is able to leverage the awkwardness of the situation into a new realm of hilarity. The trickiest task Hill and Tatum pull off is plucking the homoeroticism that’s often subliminally bubbling away under the surface of macho action flicks (any scene between The Rock and Vin Diesel in Fast and the Furious 6). The unspoken ‘bromance’ is another bountiful place for Lord and Miller to amplify the chemistry of the leads.
The debate that sequels can’t trump their predecessor dies at the hands of 22 Jump Street.
Cameron Williams – follow Cam on Twitter here: @MrCamW