After its initial action set piece, 22 Jump Street spends a good five-to-ten minutes lampooning its own existence, taking the self-referential humour of the first film’s opening act to new levels. “Things are always worse the second time,” deadpans Police Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman).
Well, he’s wrong. In the case of 22 Jump Street, which comes just two years after its surprisingly successful predecessor, pretty much everything is better the second time. We’re immediately back in familiar territory, re-joining inept cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) as they fluff a job and are placed back under the stewardship of hard-talking police boss Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who assigns them an undercover task which is suspiciously similar to their last outing – only this time they’re going to college.
Once the guys are back undercover as twin brothers Brad and Doug McQuaid, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – who have already had a hit this year with The Lego Movie – are free to go about establishing their off-kilter supporting cast, as well as reacquainting us with the Hill/Tatum double act that sparked so deliciously in the first film. Last time out, there was a pleasant subversion of expectations when it turned out that Jenko’s jock-like tendencies weren’t quite so in-vogue at a modern day high school, and schlubby Schmidt turned out to be the popular guy. This time we swing the other way, as Jenko makes quick friends with the members of the college football team, and Schmidt becomes the loner; that is, until he meets beautiful art student Maya (Amber Stevens). You could argue that, as far as the characters are concerned, it’s actually a weaker setup than that of the first film, but the strain placed on Schmidt and Jenko’s bromance still works, and garners some great laughs.
Lord and Miller allow the film to ramble a little in the mid-section, and the plot drifts in and out of significance, but the remarkable thing is that they pretty much never drop the comedy ball. There are enough funny supporting roles to back up Hill and Tatum – in particular Keith and Kenny Yang as the twins next door, and Jillian Bell as Maya’s embittered roommate – that there are always laughs, even when the duo aren’t on screen together. There’s also a beefed up role for Ice Cube to sink his teeth into, and he gets some terrific moments, in particular thanks to a plot development half way through.
The directors have a great time poking fun at the tropes of the action genre, and the nature of sequels, but none of the self-referential comedy ever feels cynical; the overriding sense you get from the film is one of delirious fun; that there were so many jokes it was an effort just to cram them all in. If the film wasn’t funny, that could’ve got tiresome quickly (particularly as it’s almost two hours long), but it hits so many comedy marks that the time simply flies by. Hill and Tatum are even better than they were in the previous film, and the script has tremendous fun playing on their differences.
This is the best example yet of Lord and Miller’s quick-fire brand of comedy, mixing together meta-humour, slapstick and wit in what is a terrifically consistent picture. There’s room for gags that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in their first film Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (in particular a sequence in which Schmidt and Jenko reel off the items in their dorm room), and th e end credits sequence alone provides more laughs than most comedies do in their entire runtimes. If there’s a funnier comedy this year, it’ll have to be something quite special.