Most sequels are the same thing regurgitated, but 22 Jump Street makes a gleeful joke of the fact, says Peter Roche. Plus, the homo subtexts are ramped up to tear-jerking levels.
Comedy sequels are notoriously difficult to pull off. You want to mine as many laughs as possible from the premise in 100 minutes and if you did the first one right, there’s precious few jokes left for a sequel. Hollywood’s latest star directorial duo, Lord and Miller, have overcome the problems with their sequel to 21 Jump Street. They seem to have a knack for making great films out of concepts that on paper look like they should be thrown into the Tesco bargain bin, along with Mean Girls 2 and The Master of Disguise (sorry Adam Sandler). Who would’ve thought The Lego Movie or the bizarre concept animated sequel, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 would be among the most entertaining films of the year?
22 Jump Street sees the stars of 21, Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill), exactly as we left them a pair of archetypal, bumbling cops who somehow manage to get the job done. Their new assignment sees them based across the road from their old headquarters, at 22 Jump Street, which happens to be a church for Vietnamese Jesus. They’re being sent to the local college where a dangerous new drug is on the scene, WHYPHY, which stands for ‘work hard yes, play hard yes’. (In the film’s logic a study/play drug is made from combining Adderall and Ecstasy. Just go with it.)
Does this sound familiar? As our accidental heroes are constantly reminded: “Do the same thing again, and then everyone is happy.” This time around, however, it’s Jenko’s turn to be the popular kid, finding a home on the football field and in the frat house, and Schmidt is relegated to hanging with the drama nerds and the effortlessly cool Maya (Amber Stevens).
The film packs in a surprising variety of humour. From countless meta-jokes about endless franchises, these’s also a sly satire on the Hollywood regurgitation machine, along with plenty of good old-fashioned slapstick. The jokes come so thick and fast, it’s hard to catch them all in one viewing. Also surprisingly, the drama isn’t lost amongst all the gags, even if it certainly plays second fiddle. Jenko and Schmidt can hardly talk soulfully for three lines before fun is poked at the homosexual subtext of their relationship. But there is genuine heart to their bromance and at times it even manages to tug on the heartstrings.
Bigger, more expensive, and maybe even better than the first, 22 Jump Street brings nothing new to the franchise, but it builds on our characters while being smarter and packing in more jokes than its predecessor. Like most sequels, it literally has the same plot as the first, but the film makes an absurdist self-referential humour out of this fact. It’s a comedy with a big heart that doesn’t take anything seriously, especially not itself.
22 Jump Street, in cinemas from June 6.
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