The first “Jump Street” movie was a textbook example of how to take an old TV property and transfer it to the screen. Simultaneously respectful of its source material while also irreverently mocking the premise, the knockabout, shameless comedy powered through thanks to a knowing script and the terrific chemistry of its two leads. It’s sequel, “22 Jump Street” is the perfect example of how to make a sequel. It takes every aspect of what worked in the original and raises it higher, sometimes to dizzyingly impressive heights.
Beginning with a ‘Previously on Jump Street’ recap, this film quickly back-peddles from the first movie’s throwaway ending to give Jenko and Schmidt a little bit of room for some inept crime fighting antics before the real plot kicks in. After another bungled bust, this time involving the smuggling of exotic animals, the pair are sent back to Jump Street and promptly packed off under cover to college to investigate the rise of a new designer drug. As their investigation progresses, they once again find themselves getting too deep into their cover identities, jeopardising their friendship and their chances of catching the drug dealers.
The real genius of “22 Jump Street” is that in addition to offering an agreeably amped-up version of everything we enjoyed the first time round, it has a subversive, satirical streak a mile wide and has hollywood sequels firmly in its sights. There’s so much fourth-wall straining meta-humour that it almost takes over the whole movie. From Nick Offerman’s Deputy Chief Hardy’s speech about how Schmidt and Jenko should ‘just do the same thing again’ to the lead’s discussions later in the film about the need to save money and avoid going over budget, the movie works as a buddy cop comedy and a satire on the movie franchise business.
The script is peppered with sharp and funny lines and when it’s not taking pot shots at itself and the fact the film got made at all, the characters are riffing off each other, none more so than Jillian Bell, who has the lion’s share of the film’s best lines as her character Mercedes mercilessly needles Schmidt about his age.
Both Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are on top form here, and their chemistry together is even better than the first time round, with Tatum especially stepping up his game to overtake Hill in the comedy stakes. Ice Cube gets an expanded role as Captain Dickson, a masterstroke which allows him to reach almost cartoon levels of apoplexy.The cast is rounded out by Amber Stevens as Schmidt’s love interest Maya, Wyatt Russell as Zook, a new rival for Jenko’s friendship and perennial villain go-to-guy Peter Stormare as the infamous drug dealer Ghost. With brief returns for Rob Riggle’s Mr Walters and Dave Franco’s Eric Molson plus a quirky turn from The Lucas Brothers as Kenny and Keith Yang plus cameos from Queen Latifa, Richard Grieco, Patton Oswalt, Bill Hader and, of course, Seth Rogen, you’ve got a comedy cast to die for delivering a multi-layered comedy spoofing not only the action genre, but taking swipes at the campus comedy, the first “Jump Street” movie, the repetitive nature of sequels and the movie making business itself. They even find time for a delightfully unexpected shout out to a British comedy legend.
If the film has a flaw, it’s that there are moments when it chooses to go for another comedy set-piece when it really should be moving the plot forward, but it’s such a minor quibble that it’s hardly worth mentioning. It’s probably symptomatic of the fact directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord came straight off the back of “The Lego Movie” to direct this and didn’t have time for a final script polish. Fortunately, the cast and script are so good and the direction so confident that any minor shortcomings are easily overlooked.
A brash, ballsy and ingenious laugh out loud action-fest that takes every inevitable clichéd weakness of sequels and turns them into strengths, “22 Jump Street” wears its heart on its sleeve and a grenade in its pants. The movie is just flat out fun, with a goofy, self-referential vibe that makes you feel like you’re in on the joke that this movie exists and having almost as good a time watching it as the cast had making it. Stay in your seats as the end credits begin, because you’ll be treated to teasers of up to thirty-eight potential “Jump Street” sequels, each one of which I would willingly buy a ticket for right now.