9 June 2014

22 JUMP STREET- Review

You know how it is- you find yourself waiting ages for a sequel which can "grab the audience's expectations by the horns in quite the way Muppets Most Wanted did" and then two come along in the same year. It also feels like just yesterday that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller released The Lego Movie, yet another stealth attack masterpiece, but 22 Jump Street is here to bring a more adult version of the same silliness.

This is their first sequel, and in doing a sequel, it means undercover detectives Schmidt and Jenko are at it again, "it" initially being an undercover operation to try and dismantle a drugs syndicate. When that fails, for the given reason that they weren't doing the exact same thing as they were in 21 Jump Street, they're busted back to the junior undercover division and told to infiltrate the dealers and find the suppliers of a new drug doing the rounds at Metro City State College. It's the same case, on a different day, but it all starts to put a strain on the two partners' bromance.

Even aside from the broad plot structure, the film is packed with worthy callbacks to gags and lines from the first film, while also actually building upon what was so fun about the first run around. 21 Jump Street was one of the first indications that Channing Tatum was arriving as a likeable screen presence and now he's a fully developed comic actor. He more than holds his own opposite Jonah Hill and their unlikely double act continues to bear fruit on the second time out. The other highlight amongst the returnees is Ice Cube, in an expanded role which now puts him well on his way to being the angriest "angry captain" character ever committed to film.

There are some neat breakthrough performances here too. Wyatt Russell plays a new character who threatens to steal Jenko away from Schmidt, as part of the role reversal of their high school experience from last time around. Amber Stephens appears to be a standard love interest until her romance with Schmidt takes on a propulsive, hysterical twist around halfway through and Jillian Bell excels as her weird, ageist roommate. The best thing about all the good new stuff on show here is that it all feels like a cheeky bonus to the old stuff, which feels completely refreshed rather than just warmed over.

It's sometimes easy to forget that Lord and Miller don't write the scripts for these films too, as they did The Lego Movie, and that story and script duties actually fall to Jonah Hill and screenwriter Michael Bacall for a second time. Nevertheless, they're crucial in the success of the delivery. You could hand this off to any of the Apatow directors and it wouldn't be nearly as special as what we get here. Lord and Miller have an incredible grasp of all of the elements at their disposal, from the cast to the editing and sound effects. 22 Jump Street has at least two stonking illustrations of that mastery, each teeing up a tour-de-force of suppressed rage and comic overreaction from Cube and Tatum respectively.

A Million Ways To Die In The West recently demonstrated the dangers of being trite and arch about genre and setting without the surety of direction shown by these directors. The sequel brings back Nick Offerman's deadpan police captain to swing the wrecking ball at the fourth wall as a representative of "the department", staggered at their own success in bringing back a long forgotten police programme from the 1980s. There are some none-too-subtle digs at standard studio practice in inferior sequels, like inflating the budget unnecessarily and simply rehashing the same story, but they're funny because they're never mean-spirited.

There was a little of this repetition and escalation from a predecessor in last year's Anchorman 2, with director Adam McKay retrospectively saying that it was definitely made as the last one, deliberately taking the memorably silly parts of the first film to the millionth degree with the express purpose of capping it off. There's something almost passive aggressive about that aspect of The Legend Continues, but Lord and Miller are just here to have fun with it. If the uproarious end credits sequence is their way of burning bridges that could lead "across the road and down one" for 23 Jump Street, then it doesn't only play that way in and of itself. The result as a whole is almost as funny as the first one and at least as well plotted.

22 Jump Street directly points out some of the things that have gone wrong in movie sequels exactly like this one and yet plays out more uniquely than any of them. For my part as a reviewer, I wind up parroting some of the things you'd expect me to say of a sequel like "it lacks the surprise value of the original" and "it's essentially more of the same", but while it's the least surprising of all their films, that's only because we know it's going to be good. It's staggering to me that anyone still wants to reboot Police Academy, because Lord and Miller are just about the only guys who could pull it off, and they're arguably already doing the same thing here, only better. They don't have any more due out this year, so you can bet that means we've already seen the funniest film of the year.

22 Jump Street is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen 22 Jump Street, why not leave a comment below? Also, which bit still makes you laugh just to think about it? I'm torn between Ice Cube's face, Channing Tatum's freakout and that cameo in the credits...

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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