22 Jump Street (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, 2014)
After the success of 21 Jump Street (Lord & Miller, 2012), Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) move across the road to number 22. The story is pretty much the same as last time, except that this time they go undercover at college (rather than high school) to bring down a drug syndicate. Recycling the same story for a sequel doesn’t always work – The Hangover Part II (Todd Phillips, 2011), for example, just didn’t pack the same punch as its predecessor – but 22 Jump Street manages to pull it off. This is partly due to the film’s self-referential nature. Anticipating the criticisms of a sequel, the film makes sure it gets in first by admitting that yes, this is going to be exactly the same as last time, and this is a running gag throughout. There are also plenty of new jokes to be made in the college setting – Schmidt attempting slam poetry was a particular highlight.
It’s easy for comedies to fall into the trap of clichéd stereotypes, with sexist/racist/homophobic jibes galore. One of the reasons I didn’t see the recent Adam Sandler comedy Blended (Frank Coraci, 2014) is because it looked like it fell into some of these massively unoriginal traps – the tomboy daughter suddenly changes her hair and becomes a gorgeous sex object – Yay! Validation of her worth! Excuse me while I go dry retch. It was refreshing then to see 22 Jump Street turn many such stereotypes on their heads. There is a running joke about Schmidt and Jenko’s “relationship” with obvious homoerotic undertones, but it manages to be respectful rather than offensive, never once going down the “Oh you thought we were gay?! Gross!” route. Instead they openly embrace it. There are further jokes regarding gender equality, race, and political correctness which all deserved a pat on the back. I’m sure some people will find something to be offended by, but they will be hard pressed to put forward a convincing argument.
*NB I don’t recall the Chris Brown/Rihanna joke shown in the trailer – I think this was (rightfully) cut.
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are the perfect odd couple. Channing Tatum is mostly there to please the ladies, but he’s surprisingly funny too. I’m not personally into the neck-as-thick-as-a-tree-trunk look though, so for me this film is all about Jonah Hill. That. Guy. Is. Hilarious. He doesn’t even need to say anything. Oh but when he does! He’s an adorable ball of laughs. Ice Cube reprises his role as Captain Dickson and has a couple of priceless moments. Amber Stevens as Schmidt’s love interest, Maya, and Wyatt Russell as Jenko’s bud interest, Zook, serve their roles aptly. Dave Franco gets only a little screen time and any more wouldn’t have really been plausible, but it’s a shame because he’s good. And those eyebrows are something else. Stay for the end credits to see a few more seconds of him.
Ultimately, 22 Jump Street is one hell of a bromance. It’s all about the Schmidt-Jenko partnership, with the drug bust stuff secondary fodder. The story might be the same but it’s the dialogue and the characters that count. More importantly, the tide seems to be gradually turning against clichéd bigoted undertones in cinema, and that is something worth celebrating.