Johnny Depp is probably the most famous thing about the ’80s TV show, 21 Jump Street. Now that the TV show has been loosely adapted to film with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum leading the charge, his legacy is in jeopardy. The first film was a bit of a gamble, taking the TV show’s premise of a special cop unit infiltrating youth crimes and giving it the Never Been Kissed treatment.
While Hill and Tatum got to undo some high school regrets like Drew Barrymore did, the film was perceived as yet another Hollywood smash-and-grab. Its success was a bit of a fluke, as openly admitted in the so-unnecessary-it’s-necessary sequel, 22 Jump Street. The film-makers have literally moved the sequel across the road to a new HQ and upgraded the undercover shenanigans from high school to university.
This is 22 Jump Street’s trump card. Their frank discussion of the sequel’s limits make it bulletproof, adding a layer of wink-wink, nudge-nudge immunity. Once they’ve completely self-deprecated their Hollywood ambitions for the sequel with Deputy Chief Hardy, played by Nick Offerman, they effectively get license to run rampant on campus.
It’s a brilliant move by returning director duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose recent success with The Lego Movie has further cemented their reputation as comedy directors. They harness the smart-dumb-fun tone throughout 22 Jump Street, using cop blunders and college humour to string a laugh-a-minute sequence of jokes together while keeping the story’s integrity intact.
From there, it’s a glorified remake of 21 Jump Street and modern rehash of the buddy movie. Instead of using the mistaken sexual identity refrain, they’ve embraced the bromance and taken it to the next level. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum may not be your typical Hollywood power couple, but they leverage the inside joke to great effect as their university bromance is put to the test.
Otherwise, it’s all formulaic rinse-and-repeat stuff from the Hill/Tatum tag team. Instead of infiltrating a high school’s synthetic drug ring, they’re hunting down the kingpin behind “WhyPhy”, a campus drug responsible for the death of a student. The hit-and-hit buddy comedy really drives 22 Jump Street, from its tongue-in-cheek opening credits to the hilarious closing credits.
♫You’ve been hit by… you’ve been struck by… a smooth criminal.♫
Jonah Hill can do comedy and drama well, as demonstrated by strong performances in Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street. He’s just terrific as Schmidt, perfecting the character from 21 Jump Street and rolling with the punchlines. Channing Tatum also knows how to laugh at himself, making an excellent counterpoint to Hill and adding action hero credibility to the comedy duo.
They’re supported by the cool, no-nonsense Ice Cube, who returns for a meatier role as Captain Dickson, Wyatt Russell gets to play Zook a hedonistic college football goon, Amber Stevens hits the sweet spot as Schmidt’s dangerous fling and Jillian Bell delivers some big laughs as the intense roommate with an ample supply of moxie. The weakest link is Peter Stormare as “The Ghost”, whose Peter Stormare performance has been better in other movies.
While the pacing is good and the stream of entertainment is steady, 22 Jump Street trips into 22.5 Jump Street. After the college blow out, they latch onto a Spring Break reinvention, at a point when you think the film is winding down to a “To be continued…”. The new scenario could have seeded a sequel and while entertaining, feels inconsistent like the climax from another movie. It does shift down a gear, but it’s still explosive enough to power over the original.
22 Jump Street is a blast of lightweight entertainment that gives you permission to laugh out loud from start to finish. The film-makers have managed to build an empire of inside jokes in this fun and fearless sequel. They could have taken the university gags intoAmerican Pie territory, but they’re smarter than that… deconstructing jocks and constructing the ultimate revenge of the nerds in the process.
The bottom line: Hilarious
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