Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube
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Warning: This contains spoilers for the end credits of 22 Jump Street.
22 Jump Street has some of the greatest end credits you’ll ever see (if you haven’t seen them already on YouTube). It might be unusual to review the final titles of a film, but in the case of this undercover cop sequel, it’s more than justified: they’re the best part of the whole movie.
Jumping straight off from the ending of the first – “You guys are going to college!” – 22 Jump Street ends with the promise of 23 Jump Street (“You’re going to Medical School!”). And then 24 Jump Street (Foreign Exchange Students). It’s a joke that the writers could seemingly carry on ad infinitum, with an endless string of sell-out sequels set in learning institutions suitable for our buddies. Culinary school! (“Let’s stew this.”) Vet school! (“Farmed and dangerous.”)
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, both reprising their roles as men-children Schmidt (the dorky one) and Jenko (the athletic one), revel in the nonsense of it all – but it’s not just two actors sending themselves up and saying stupid puns. Soon, the whole film is sending itself up. Hypothetical titles give way to contract disputes, which give way to different actors… and then things get even sillier.
The rest of the movie is equally inspired. It wastes no time in making its intentions clear: we begin with Nick Offerman’s Deputy Chief explaining the basic premise of the sequel. Namely, to do exactly the same thing as 21 Jump Street, because that’s what worked last time. Like the worst sequels, every step is an echo of the previous outing, but writers Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman copy themselves with an absurdly knowing wit. The old drug is superseded by a new one (“Wi-Fi”) and the abandoned church is taken back by the Koreans and replaced with another – which now comes with a shark tank, because the budget is bigger. “How convenient,” they all exclaim, before repeating the same mantra of “infiltrate the dealer, find the supplier”. 22 Jump Street’s script isn’t just self-aware: it’s become sentient, evolved, taken mankind into space and is now refusing to open the pod bay doors.
And so, while Schmidt and Jenko’s relationship evolves according to the typical bromance formula, it also becomes genuinely engaging – while still undermining itself at every point. They pretend to go on a coming-of-age journey, only to actually come of age – and then make fun of themselves doing so. Even their politically incorrect sexual gags are corrected, after one of them studies gender and psychology.
“I think we should investigate other people,” deadpans Jenko at one point, as he bonds with his new best bro, football player Zook (a wonderfully dimwitted Wyatt Russell). Schmidt, meanwhile, finds himself performing slam poetry in an attempt to impress an art major, which has awkward consequences for the rest of the unit.
The moment when Captain Dickinson confronts them about it is sidesplitting stuff, as Ice Cube’s outbursts become increasingly angry. Given more screen space, he has a whale of a time yelling improvised insults, while Hill squirms with the best of them. Channing Tatum, though, steals every second he’s in front of the camera. If 21 Jump Street revealed his knack for comic timing, this cements him as one of the most underrated comedy performers around; his faux-stupid act doesn’t get old, but also manages to be oddly sympathetic. Cottoning on to jokes five minutes after everyone else, his gormless facial expressions are priceless, only outdone by his over-the-top physical slapstick. Together with Hill, the pair are a joy to watch unleashed on such tightly constructed material.
Fresh from their time on The LEGO Movie, directors Chris Lord and Phil Miller are as sharp and anarchic as ever, precisely piecing things together before blowing them up – and still finding time to shoehorn in Benny Hill references and endless sight gags, not to mention violent squids. The production is so over-written and over-directed that it shouldn’t work, but it’s simply too funny not to enjoy – doubly so, if you’ve seen the first movie. Even at its slightly overlong runtime, the nods and callbacks are packed in at a rate that rivals Airplane!, with the supporting cast also getting their chance to deliver big laughs (SNL’s Jillian Bell as bizarrely anti-sexual psychotic roommate Mercedes is a standout).
By the time the end credits roll around, it’s hard to believe that the filmmakers can still top what’s gone before – and they do so in a blaze of smart, satirical glory that suggests we never have to see them sell out again. The fact that you’d probably still line up to watch 23 Jump Street anyway says it all.
22 Jump Street is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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