Sequelitis is still a rampant and deadly disease, despite a recent resurgence in the steps to combat it by some top draw follow-ups over the years. Plaguing not only western cinema but nearly all forms of entertainment, I never feel fully behind one until it comes out and has passed my eyes with guilty until proven innocent judgement. Rarely do we see one bettering it's original, but trust the comedy A-list tag team of Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum to give a healthy inoculation in another teen police outing of the rebooted 21 Jump Street series with 22 Jump Street.
Despite taking out the drug dealers and saving high school, Schmidt (Hill, The Wolf Of Wall Street) and Jenko (Tatum, White House Down), are bumped down to staking out online university courses before botching the Ghost's (Peter Stormare, The Last Stand) exotic animal trafficking empire. Redeployed (and moved across the road) to the Vietnamese church at 22 Jump Street, the duo are back under the eye of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube, Ride Along) and despatched to college to stop a new drug students are taking and dying from called 'WhyPhy'. But Jenko gets to have the football career he's always wanted whilst Schmidt struggles in jock bonding sessions and the two are at odds as the case is threatened. Unsmiley face.
Again, this is another vehicle to show off Tatum's previously unknown acting talents. In this comedy genre, he really makes 22 Jump Street his own movie by displaying great emotional range. Of course, the film is built around the joke that someone who is thought to be a limited actor like Tatum can't act and yet there were scenes where he really drew me in with unexpected depth. I really felt like going to my friend in middle of the screening "look, it's Channing Tatum. I did not realise he could be this good!" Oddly enough, Hill doesn't feel like he makes as much as an impact like he should. He *IS* in the film enough but with the uber-freshness of Tatum and a certain rapper-turned-actor he gets upstaged massively compared to Hill's familiar yet fine comedic performance.
With any good Ice Cube appearance, he threatens to steal the whole film from everyone by just being Ice Cube and playing up to the angry black man persona he does so well. His meltdown at the parents weekend at college is superb where he lashes out at poor waiters and throw a vase in a fountain screaming "fuck you nice flowers!" The awkward looks he gives our heroes for being damn crazy crackers and the non-stop yelling of respecting Vietnamese Jesus are among the movie's highlights. Away from that, for his biggest co-starring role to date, I quite enjoyed Wyatt Russell (Yes, son of Kurt!) as Jenko's new college football buddy. Good decision to turn down Hunger Games for a expansive and memorable role in this.
For me, North American cinema has finally delivered a comedy duo worth of competing against Simon Pegg & Nick Frost in Hill & Tatum. 22 Jump Street goes back to the buddy cop duo mine but the bucketloads of character development and conflict adds to the charm of the couple rather than detracts. It's Tatum's Jenko's turn to be the leading man with the lion share of plots and character development with him bonding with fellow jocks in his element of the college football team and leaving Hill's Schmidt out. The break-up and make-up of our favourite two undercover students are some of the best comedic interactions I've seen in awhile. In truth, it must have been a blast working on this and it shows in a warm, welcoming, 'dick & fart' joke extravaganza. Whilst the credits kinda suggest "this is it - no more" from these together on Jump St., the real possibility of them teaming up together soon enough for another comedy outing is more than welcome. You would have thought after two films together and a few cameo appearances in other things Hill & Tatum would be wearing thin - not at all. I eagerly await the news of these two tearing it up again.
Whilst we're waiting on the arrival of one Dumb & Dumber To to drop, 22 Jump Street sneaks the comedy film of the summer crown from Neighbors for me. It hasn't been done in a long old time but most of the best lines and dialogue is part of the self-referential humour, about Jump St. in real life. They just keep running and running with it, like near the start they do a joke about teasing 23 Jump Street across the road of the new church and yet before the credits finish you've seen the plots for every Jump Street up to 38. It's very meta and the ante just keeps going up and up and whilst you're scraping yourself off the floor in a giggling mess, you're left wanting to know where they're going next. I won't lie when I say I really enjoyed even the forced and cornier moments of the referential moments, like halfway through the film, Captain Dickson dresses down the two undercover cops for spending too much on the "police" budget so the two have to not do anything more expensive in their police work... which of course leads to a chase scene with them moaning all the costly bits the villains are breaking. It fit into the film well and produced some of it's biggest laughs from me. Extremely good use of referential humour and it's a solid backbone to the film.
Away from that bone, the rest of the comedy holds up well. There's another drug/tripping sequence with WhyPhy. This time around, the user goes super intense and focuses on whatever task they do for a set time period. Cue an amazing stealth mission parody with Schmidt and Jenko breaking into a frat house to spy on a football player, with Jenko continuously drilling secret cameras and mikes in the attic, despite Schmidt telling him they run out 5 requests ago. Then, WhyPhy users go on an intense trip. Our duo share one where Schmidt is in a horrible dark dimension with Creed playing in the background whilst Jenko is in a super happy land with Vietnamese Jesus dancing. Easy but top stuff. There's even some decent clever gags with Jenko feeling regret at the use of gay slurs in high school after one human sexuality class and becomes a bully to homophobes. Away from the opener, the rest of the film is non-stop laughs and it's easily the most fun I had from a comedy this summer.
So is 22 Jump Street perfection then? Well no. Again, the story is exactly the same as the first, with similarly timed twists with minimally introduced characters compared to much more screen time red herrings. Not that it's the selling point in getting butts in cinema seats and you always kind of expect it for a sequel, as retreading familiar plot points from the original is a trope for follow ups. I'll admit it's perhaps harsh to mark down a fantastically hysterical film, when you consider there is more than enough new jokes and tonnes of brilliant bro-ments, but I expect more effort - why not mix up the plot a bit after everything else has been given so much due care and attention? Also, the film's opening scenes until they're back on Jump Street didn't do a great deal for me being honest. After we got the "yawn!" stereotype Mexican gags out of the way (another welcome vehicle for Tatum though) and got through the average truck chase scene, it was all gravy but it felt like the film was just waiting to start.
The 411: There's plenty of new gags to fill up the tank in this superior than the original buddy cop comedy 22 Jump Street. The freshness of the Tatum & Hill double act has not gone stale and you will be left wanting. Be warned plot-wise you'll see exactly the same movie again as the first Jump Street reboot but then you're not turning up for the storyline. Epic bromantic comedy