The Pitch: 21 Jump Street: Part Deux.
The Review: In the filing cabinet of “Great But Nonetheless Pleasant Cinema Surprises Of The 21st Century”, somewhere in between “you can make a good film out of a pirate fairground ride” and “Robert Downey Jr. will earn $50 million dollars a film”, you’ll find a rather thick file stamped “21 Jump Street”. Case notes in this particular file include “you can make a great comedy out of an Eighties TV series that hardly anyone remembers”, “Channing Tatum is a great comic actor” and “double Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill”. OK, that last one doesn’t have anything particular to do with the 2012 film or its sequel which we’re considering here, but hey, who saw that coming? Who even thought he’d be the talented one out of Superbad? Anyway, I digress: in the draw underneath in the filing cabinet market “Least Surprising Things To Happen In Cinema In The 21st Century”, 21 Jump Street did rather well, returning a $200 million worldwide gross off the back of a $40 million budget, so Tatum, Hill and the Jump Street gang have moved over the road to 22 Jump Street.
What you want from a sequel is enough of what you liked about the original, but with enough new elements to keep you invested in the follow-up. In a spectrum that runs somewhere from “Alien / Aliens” (radical reinvention) to the two Hangover movies (completely identical, but with all of the joy cynically sucked out), I’m pleased to be able to report that somehow 22 Jump Street is much closer to the Aliens end, despite being almost identical to the original. No, hold that: 22 Jump Street works so well because it plays with the audience’s expectations of rolling out exactly the same elements again. From Korean Jesus to a dangerous drug trip and extreme male bonding, 22 Jump Street feels like a comfortable pair of gloves that you’ve take out of the draw, ready for another winter, but sometime during the summer someone’s pimped them out with seven kinds of bling and redone the fur lining with a gorgeously soft exotic animal. Everything’s familiar, just a little bit more expensive.
The main subversion this time around is that while school was nothing like the school Schmidt and Jenko experienced – giving Hill’s Schmidt the happy school experience he never had – college is exactly like it was when the pair were probably too dumb to get into it, meaning that Tatum is now in his element and Hill’s the one that’s struggling. Other than that, it’s a re-run of the original plot: the two attempt to infiltrate the educational-based drug ring with hilarious consequences. And they are hilarious: I’m a generally quiet and reserved person in real life, and I regard any good comedy to be one that can make me physically laugh out loud on more than one occasion. Both Jump Street addresses pass this test comfortably, and at one point I was rolling around in danger of falling off my chair. The lack of the element of surprise does mean the laughs don’t quite resonate as loudly, but there’s not much in it and if you enjoyed the first one, the second won’t disappoint.
There are a few new elements to keep things fresh, including a slew of new comedy staples from American TV to complement the likes of the returning Nick Offernan and Rob Riggle. There’s also more Ice Cube this time around, in a move that should disappoint precisely no-one, and additions of new supporting characters as Jillian Bell as an acerbic roommate and The Lucas Brothers as stoner twins in the college dorm also raise some of the biggest laughs of the follow-up. The extended budget does allow for bigger car chases and explosions (oddly, this leads to the only disappointment as the opening port chase feels anticlimactic and lacking in big laughs) but whether it will result in a similarly large box-office return remains to be seen. However, the film even gets a dig in at this concept, along with pretty much every other preconception you’ll have of sequels in general and this one in particular, and the steady supply of laughs and the fact that Tatum and Hill’s easy chemistry burns just as brightly make this a successful return to Jump Street. It seems, between this and The LEGO Movie, that directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller can currently do no wrong; hopefully they’ll now be as much the go-to guys for comedy as J.J. Abrams has become for science-fiction with huge amounts of lens flare.
Why see it at the cinema: Likely to be one of the year’s biggest comedies, and you’ll enjoy it that much more with an audience around you. The action scenes aren’t bad, but not as essential to be seen on the big screen.
What about the rating? Rated 15 for frequent strong language, strong sex references and violence. Also, BBFC, with reference to your extended classification, I’m not sure you really needed the quotes around “fisting”, but whatever.
Should I sit through the credits? The opening of the credits runs through so many possibilities of future sequels, most of which you’ll wish you could watch in full, that you’ll wonder where they can go if they do head anywhere else on Jump Street. (My suggestion: kindergarten teachers. Swearing, drugs and small children: killer mix.) There is a final gag at the very end, and while it may not be worth sitting through the credits for, it made me smile.
My cinema experience: Seen at a Saturday afternoon showing at the Cineworld in Cambridge (where they sold me a ticket to 21 Jump Street; I didn’t feel it was worth aruging). The Cineworld has recently introduced assigned seating, but rather than take my designated seat in the middle of the main block, as the cinema was half full I took my more usual seat on a side aisle. Since I was then out on my own, I had the odd experience of almost feeling as if I was watching in a different cinema, with the laughter in the audience weirdly displaced. No point in going to the cinema if you’re not going to get involved.
The Score: 8/10