To paraphrase Randy (Jamie Kennedy) from Scream 2, there are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. The filmmaking team behind 22 Jump Street abides. Number one: they give us a bigger and stupider Channing Tatum. Number two: much more elaborate gags. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume that they’re not having an awesome time taking the piss out of themselves.
Undercover team Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) have upgraded to 22 Jump Street, a bigger slice of the Metro City Police Department's budget, Korean Jesus has been replaced with Vietnamese Jesus but Ice Cube's Captain Dickson still has the same orders; infiltrate the dealers, find the supplier.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller go to four wins and zero losses with 22 Jump Street (their previous films are Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie). They've got a wonderfully dense directorial style. In some moments it's sweeping large scope action, quirky inventories of what their characters need at that given moment, or even graceful choreographed movements through a college football game.
The script is a marvel of interlaced comedic styles. Sitting in the audience at times felt like standing in the ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr. The screen writing team Michael Bacall (who also co-wrote the story with Hill), Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman complement each other’s styles so perfectly that in any given combination of gags you're attempting to set yourself for what's to come but you're always caught off guard. Deft blows that fluctuate between callbacks from the first film, self-aware sarcasm about the series, double taps of self-reference from the actors themselves and just completely out there sight and sound gags made seemingly to amuse this filmmaking group. Not everything works and it takes some time to get into a rhythm but once it builds momentum it's a relentless ride. One thing the writing team do is address the expectation, which they repeatedly call out in a large chunk of Captain Dickson's (Cube) dialogue, that police superiors, especially Nick Offerman's Deputy Chief Hardy (and the audience), want everything to be the same as their last adventure to the point that you're being engendered because of the very nature of sequels that it is going to go a certain way.
Hill is outstanding this time around. It's refreshing to see him play the slighted partner in this relationship as their covers lead them into different cliques. Going back to the loner high school Schmidt is unbearable after years of being alongside Jenko. One aspect of the first 21 Jump Street that I wasn't a fan of was the relationship between Brie Larsen's Molly and Schmidt. It lead Schmidt down this uncontrollable spiral of douchbaggery that detracted from investment in the character. However this time around he meets Amber Stevens' Maya and he must learn how to have an adult relationship. A true highlight is watching Hill's walk of shame, barefoot through the campus after a night with her. It's excruciatingly good.
Tatum gets to take it to the physical limit this time around. Unlike high school, college sports culture and fraternity living is so dominant that he's drawn into the sights of the team's quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell). Indulging in his dream future as a football star (that is if he was smart enough to have gotten himself into college) is really satisfying despite the fact that it causes tension between our heroes. Tatum has become a ninja at timing Jenko's dimwittedness. There's a moment of realisation in the film performed by Tatum and complimented by beautiful audio direction that may be one of the best sound gags that I've ever seen in a comedy.
22 Jump Street is the kind of funny that leaves your stomach sore and face hurt.
[rating=4] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller Written by: Michael Bacall (screenplay/story) and Oren Uziel (screenplay) and Rodney Rothman (screenplay) and Jonah Hill (story) Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell, Ice Cube, The Lucas Brothers, Nick Offerman