The buddy-action comedy 21 Jump Street had to be one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time. So does its follow-up… well… follow-up?
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return to 22 Jump Street as Officers Schmidt and Jenko, who were successful in the last film in making their first arrest by infiltrating and posing as high school students to investigate a drug reign. They find themselves doing an uncover assignment again, with Captain Dickson (played again by Ice Cube) returning to help them out. This time they’re posing as college students to locate the supplier of a drug called WHYPHY (WiFi). This time Jenko becomes the popular kid on campus, while Schmidt sticks with the outcast art students, and the Spring Break finale replaces the prom night backdrop.
As a comedy, 22 Jump Street is hilarious! As a sequel, it does a good job, though I think I’d have to get into more detail on it. It’s not as good as 21 Jump Street, but at least you can get some really big laughs out of this (depending on your sense of humour, of course). I think it was as funny as 21 Jump Street, but for different reasons. I didn’t laugh in some parts, but in the parts where I did laugh, I laughed hard.
These are the same directors who worked on The Lego Movie, and you can expect a similar kind of humour: very kinetic, very colourful, and VERY self-referential. What I think really worked for the first film was the writing: it didn’t break the fourth wall, but it did address in a very clever way an outlook on Hollywood running out of ideas and just adapting anything that was popular in the past (seeing as this film was based on the popular television drama 21 Jump Street, which set-off Johnny Depp’s career). In the sequel, the self-references are a little more out-there, as this one is more about the Hollywood trend of making sequels and creating popular franchises, which is especially seen at the end credits sequence that gets everyone roaring with laughter!
The other reason why the humour works is the cast. The best performances are from Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, who have outstanding chemistry on screen and are a lot funnier than the first one. This time around, they’re given a lot more ad libbed dialogue, and it helps out a lot. We already have a good sense of their camaraderie, and we get to see their highs and lows, so even when we see them parting ways again like last time, it still feels somewhat believable. In fact, they play on their relationship so much that they make jokes about their bromance, which is hilarious. We also get funny performances from new actors, though the best moments come from this double act. Ice Cube gets a lot more screen time in this film, and he really gets to shine more. There’s a point around the middle where he goes on a rampage. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it’s one of the highlights in the film. However, the cream of the crop is the end credits sequence, which like I said before is hysterical!
My friend had described this sequel like Gremlins 2, and that actually makes a lot of sense. It’s a very meta-film, and the film keeps on going on about how this is a sequel. It plays on that joke a lot. It sometimes gets a bit old, but it finds clever ways to mention the popular trends in sequels (like bigger budgets or repeating story elements). A big mistake self-referential films tend to do is to reference itself too much, like saying “we’re just a sequel film and we’re not as good as the first one” to try to make itself funnier, when it really ends up becoming the very thing it tries to avoid doing: a poor sequel which is just not very funny. However, even if 22 Jump Street does do the same thing and does feel like a sequel, with them constantly saying “this is the exact same case”, I think this works better than other sequel films, because 1. it’s about a commentary on Hollywood exploiting film franchises, and 2. they make the right amount of changes to the characters and situations to make it feel a little more different than the first one, which included more surprises and a few twists in the story and its gags. Thankfully, they didn’t just repeat the same jokes from the first film: they added new jokes on old situations. Besides, even if some story elements are very similar to the previous, they didn’t, for example, just repeat the mystery exactly the same as in the first film: like the first film, it does keep you guessing as to who could have been the drug dealer. And from a directorial stand-point, the film looks and feels different enough. It’s much more over-the-top and explosive, and I think that worked really well. It also added a lot of background jokes, which I’m sure I need to look back in order to catch them all. The only thing is I wish that it went more focused on its story, because sometimes it’s much more focused on its humour. I know what the filmmakers were intending to do, as I know the whole point was to say that sequels aren’t as good as the first one, but I think it could have done a little better. 21 Jump Street felt like a comedy, but it also felt like it was telling a story: we were getting to know these two characters, and see them in situations they’re not accustomed to. 22 Jump Street felt more like a satirical comedy, and while the act of repeating the formula was done on purpose, the narrative is less flowing, and the character development is a little less believable.
Another nitpick I have is that, in the first film, one of Schmidt’s character arcs included him having the bravery to shoot a gun, and in this movie it’s replaced by him not being as strong or as agile as Jenko. I don’t know: didn’t Schmidt already go through the physical training at the police academy in the first film? And pass? Sure, he’s not as fit or as physically active as Jenko (where in this film he’s allowed to perform a lot more stunts than before), and some moments make more sense than others, since he can’t perform crazy stunts, but Schmidt is not incapable: clumsy and a bit wimpy, maybe, but he’s not that weak. The only reason I’m giving it a free pass is that it doesn’t go too far, and it works for Jenko who felt like Schmidt was pulling him down, and pays off at the end. Sure, their character arcs aren’t as strong as in the previous film, but at least there’s something there, and at least they have a stronger bond in 22 Jump Street. In the first film, they learn to work together and become friends, but in the second, they try to regain that spark again. That did work for me.
The first time I saw 22 Jump Street, I felt this was as good as the first film, though once I gathered my thoughts, I felt it wasn’t on par. But, there is definitely as much effort put into it. It feels like everyone involved in 21 Jump Street wanted to return to this film, even if it wasn’t going to match up to the first one. The writing doesn’t feel lazy, the action and comedy is great, and the performances are fantastic. Maybe the story could have used some work, and it might bother some people, but I still enjoyed the film up to the end. Even if you don’t like this film as much as the first film, there’s definitely something there.
As for me: 22 Jump Street is the funniest film of the year!