UK Release: June 6th 2014
In the tradition of comedy follow-ups like ‘Gremlins 2: The New Batch’ and ‘Airplane 2: The Sequel’ (which has the line of ‘’Ted, I have the strangest feeling we’ve been through this exact same thing before’’), ‘ 22 JUMP STREET’ has a giddy time going full meta with its set up and humour. Playing with the idea ithat sequels are never as good as the original films, this film knowingly uses the formula of first film (’21 Jump Street’) and instead of having it in a school, Jenko and Schmidt are investigating a new drug on a college campus. In this sequel you do see the return of the like of Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill* (also a writer on this) and Ice Cube, along with writing and directing pair of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who are coming off the success of, earlier this years, ‘The Lego Movie’.
While the whole joke, again he is that sequels are as never as good as the originals, and usually are the same film, but bigger, with scale (the idea that being this will make it better), ’22 Jump Street’ isn’t as good as its 2012 original. However this should not take away from still one of the smartest and funniest films of the year. With a lot of the humour being meta (best of which coming from Nick Offerman’s Chief Hardy), this whole film has less of its own story then the original and more deconstructing the Hollywood blockbuster business model. In one of the opening scenes Chief Hardy is referred to as the ‘’Authority’’ (or should that be the movie studio?), and tells Jenko and Schmidt that ‘’They’’ got ‘’Lucky’’ the first time around (referring to the surprise success of the first film). He also mentions that everything has to be done the same as before as it was ‘’Sucessful’’, (this being the point I made that everything has to be bigger meaning better in regards to a blockbuster sequel, comedy or not, as it has been a successful formula before). There is other examples of this type of humour with how ‘’No one’’ would want to Jenko (Tatum) fighting terrorists in the White House (joke on the disappointing box office of last Summer’s Tatum fronted ‘White House Down’), how much it would cost to fix the damage left by the conventional action sequences which take place, and how Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson working in a new and more expensive (again this is ‘’Bigger and better’’), glass box referred as a ‘’Cube of ice’’. The good thing here though is that if you don’t quite understand these meta jokes (it is full of pop culture references, watch out for Benny Hill), it still works and functions on a level for casual viewers as well. A lot of the humour comes from the bromance relationship between Tatum and Hill (played and wrote perfectly, and a tricky thing to achieve) and how it becomes a triangle when the character played by Wyatt Russell comes in, with Schmidt being left out this time. There is also a screen stealing performance from a fellow college student (Jillian Bell), who not only is very meta, but also very much the character which sees through the act of Jenko and Schmidt and keeps referring to how old they look, (in fact unlike the high school students of the first film, the college kids think they are cops – A nice interlocking joke flipping it from the original). Saying this though it does follow the Hollywood model of ‘’bigger means better’’ sequels, but before it deconstructs these conventions, it does it after introducing audience members who are uninitiated to what is it they are trying to make jokes off first. I thing the biggest joke from this though is how they have released this in the height of the Summer Blockbuster season, which includes a lot of big budget films which use this same ‘bigger means better’ model.
There are a few faults with this though. While it still keeps a level of intellect, the central romance between Jonah Hill (Schmidt) and Amber Stevens ends without a true ending, and this is a shame as the actress’ is talented. The film (again) has less of a narrative structure then the first, with a lot of the scaffolding being supports for the meta jokes, then strengthen the films actual story. The best way to combat this is having knowledge to know going in that this film is meant to the same as the first as that is the gag. Still Lord and Miller do bring some elegance with their writing, particularly with how (yet again!) write this bromance angle without coming off forced and how they directed a very good split screen sequence. They also have provided us with the best credit sequence ever.
So to conclude ’22 Jump Street’ is the best follow-up to a cleverly deconstructionist film remake of a TV show since ‘A Very Brady Sequel’. Miller and Lord, after earlier this year, ‘The Lego Movie’ has hit 2 for 2. Excellent work.
*Doesn’t Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill sound like London Underground stations?