Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return as Schmidt and Jenko in the follow up to 2012’s surprisingly good 21 Jump Street.
They’re now even more too-old for high school, so they’re sent to college to carry out the exact same mission as last time – they must ‘infiltrate the dealers, find the supplier’ of new drug ‘WHYPHY’ that’s circulating the campus.
Verdict: A comedy sequel is very tough to pull off. It’s hard to think of many sequels that are as good as their originals, let alone any that surpass them. That’s the task Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the duo also behind The LEGO Movie) had on their hands in following up the surprise success of the first film.
Rarely before has a sequel been quite so self-aware. They just about stop short of singing ‘Sequel Song’ from Muppets Most Wanted, but don’t hold back on referencing the surprise success of the first project and the difficult second mission with a bigger budget. As well as referencing itself, it’s a lot more ‘knowing’ all round, with references to another of Tatum’s recent roles, and to Ice Cube himself. Despite the familiar (exactly the same) plot, it somehow manages to still feel fresh and exciting.
The chemistry between the two leads is a joy to watch, and still the main selling point of the film.
Jonah Hill is an excellent comedic actor, as we’ve come to know, and puts so much humour into the simplest of lines. He has a gift for facial expressions and body language. Tatum is more of a straight man for a lot of the film, but is as lovable as ever. With the plot pretty much exactly the same as the first film, this time the roles are switched slightly and it’s Jenko who makes friends and enjoys the college lifestyle more than Schmidt. Despite the straighter role, it’s Jenko who gives us perhaps the funniest moment of the whole film, with a scene that sees Tatum’s physical comedy come to the fore and will see audiences having to pick themselves up off the floor.
As well as the returns of Schmidt and Jenko, pretty much everybody else from the first film re-appears – from Nick Offerman’s Deputy Chief Hardy, Mr Walters and Eric (Rob Riggle and Dave Franco – featured in the trailer but uncredited in the film) to Schimdt’s parents and Jenko’s geeky friends. But it’s Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson whose role is significantly beefed up, and as a result he completely steals every scene he’s in. He really is hilarious every time he is on screen.
It’s a refreshing change to have a comedy where the funniest bits aren’t ruined by the trailer, as was the case with last week’s A Million Ways to Die in the West. The weakest part of the first film was its one real gross-out moment, but we don’t see any repeat of that here. This is a film with a lot of heart – perhaps even more so than the original – unlike many other recent comedies. It never goes down the route of thinking ‘mean’ equals funny, remaining good natured and silly, but very funny. It’s full of a mix of clever dialogue, visual gags, physical comedy and subtle humour. There’s also just about the right amount of action, giving Tatum the chance to show his impressive action chops (and parkour skills).
The end of the film seems to close the door on a sequel, but it gives us perhaps the funniest end credits sequence ever (and even a Marvel-style sting at the very end). It would be a real shame if we didn’t get to see this team together again – not just Hill and Tatum, but also Ice Cube, and Lord and Miller.
Criticisms of the film are few and far between. At close to two hours in runtime, this does fly by for the most part, but perhaps it could have been tightened up (trimming off about 15 minutes) to make the plot a little bit more focussed – It isn’t quite as tight as it was first time around, but makes it up the consistently strong humour.
Final Words: Captain Dickson’s line “do the same thing, and everybody’s happy” proves to be completely true here. A slightly too-long runtime can be completely forgiven because you’ll be having too much fun to notice.
Hill, Tatum and Ice Cube are all excellent. Funny throughout, it just about surpasses its predecessor, and is the funniest film of the year so far.
22 Jump Street is in cinemas from 6 June 2014.