fri 28/02/2020

22 Jump Street | reviews, news & interviews

22 Jump Street

22 Jump Street

Hill and Tatum return for a sequel that has fun embracing its derivativeness

"Spring Break y'all": Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum head back undercover in "22 Jump Street"

"We're too old for this shit," quips Jenko (Channing Tatum), quoting one of the greats of weary screen policing - Lethal Weapon's Murtaugh - in response to his latest nonsensically spectacular brush with death. "We started off too old for this shit," shoots back his partner Schmidt (Jonah Hill). Welcome to 22 Jump Street: a film that wears a lack of originality not just on its sleeve but as its whole outfit. Its predecessor 21 Jump Street was the big screen remake that promised little but delivered in belly laughs. But surely a sequel is stretching the joke too thin?

Thankfully this turns out not to be the case. It begins with a "Previously on 21 Jump Street" recap - a neat way of alluding to the franchise's TV origins as well as reminding us what happened in the first film (intensely hilariously when presented in montage), which saw a pair of immature police officers go undercover in a high school to root out a drug supplier.

As promised in the final line of the original - delivered by the perma-furious Captain Dickson (Ice Cube, whose return is pictured right) - 22 Jump Street sees Jenko and Schmidt go back undercover, but this time at college, with the film's title referring to the fact that the investigation hub has moved to a premises across the road. As they arrive at the campus Jenko wells up, explaining that: "I'm the first person in my family to pretend to go to college".

There's a different drug and a new love interest (Amber Stevens' Maya) but for the most part - as the film boasts itself - "It's exactly like last time". Minor tweaks include the sequel capitalising on Tatum's growing profile as an action star with Tatum getting a chance to showcase his absurd athleticism, usually at Hill's expense as Schmidt is forced to lag pathetically and ineptly behind, or to take the stairs while Jenko drops from balcony to balcony.

The film pokes fun at Tatum too, best illustrated in a scene which references Hill's chops as a serious actor (at just 30 he's already been Oscar-nominated twice) where Schmidt exuberantly assumes the guise of a Latino gangster to infiltrate a drug gang and Jenko struggles to pull off the same level of characterisation - to put it politely.

22 Jump Street is directed with energy and the occasional flourish by animation supremos Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie) who also helmed the original. There's a couple of nice split screen moments, some wonderful humour-infused action and fights, and a riotous closing credits sequence which - in a very off-the-wall way - seems to put paid to the prospect of a third film. Meanwhile the sparky, almost insanely knowing script comes courtesy of the original's screenwriter Michael Bacall (working with Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman).

But ultimately the sequel succeeds because of its huge heart. It takes that old comedic staple of a friendship which starts to assume the character of a romantic relationship and makes it the basis of the entire movie as Schmidt and Jenko drift apart - with Jenko finding a new BFF in Wyatt Russell's Zook (pictured above left with Tatum) - only to realise how much they need each other (again a not dissimilar arc to the first film). It also shows how Jenko has been influenced by his Human Sexuality class, leading him to the realisation that he used homophobic slurs in high school - there's even a sequence where he (sincerely - Tatum is very good at sincere) reprimands some bad guys on their use of offensive language whilst wearing the epitome of masculine garb: an American football kit. It's a nice touch.

Ignore the unabashed repetition and relentless references and you'll see that Lord and Miller have created something that couldn't be more colourful, sweet and daft if it were drawn with crayons, with gags that go for broke as they aim for big loud laughs. Such is the sense of jubilant, childish anarchy that it feels like a film that's been specifically designed to allow Tatum and Hill to take the piss out of themselves and each other as respite from the serious business of their thriving careers (it should be noted here that Tatum too has won acting plaudits for his work both in the self-conceived Magic Mike and recently at Cannes for his performance in Foxcatcher). And 22 Jump Street is always at its best when the two are onscreen together.

Whatever the intention, what we have here is a movie which perfectly encapsulates the spirit of summer fun. It's the ideal combination of stupidity, affability and swagger.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for 22 Jump Street

Follow @EmmaSimmonds on Twitter

It couldn't be more colourful, sweet and daft if it were drawn with crayons

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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