Soppy American police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are once again sent age-inappropriately undercover, this time as students at a local college, after finally having made their way through high school twice. Nothing much has changed since 2011’s 21 Jump Street. Admittedly the duo are not 21 any more – but they’re definitely planning to go one funnier.
And so they do as the pair continue their weird bromance in this often hilarious sequel. But true brotherly love is threatened when Jenko meets a kindred spirit on the football team, the splendidly dumb jock Zook (Wyatt Russell), and a rival bromance starts up, leading Hill and Tatum to question their partnership.
Feeling spurned by Jenko, Schmidt infiltrates the bohemian art major scene and falls for the gorgeous Maya (Amber Stevens). Just after they’ve spent the night together, everyone finds out she’s the daughter of their police Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), making him very, very angry indeed. And making the audience laugh very, very loudly indeed.
Meanwhile the lads are still supposed to be doing police work – they’re investigating who’s selling drugs in the college. Schmidt suspects Jenko’s new bro, but it’s just jealousy. They need to be on the trail of The Ghost (Peter Stormare).
Though Hill is co-credited for providing the ‘story’, there isn’t one. 22 Jump Street is just a plot-free freewheeling series of gags. That it motors so dynamically and amusingly is down the huge comedy skills and sheer likeability of Hill and Tatum. Admittedly Hill is harder to like than Tatum, but he is maybe funnier. After all, he is the actual comedian of the pair.
They are an odd couple. How they got cast together in the first place, well who knows? But the pairing works triumphantly. Tatum runs, jumps and is generally brilliantly athletic, giving a marvellously physically graceful as well as goofily funny performance. Of course that’s contrasted with the tubby, unfit but cannier-seeming Hill’s struggling physicality.
This is reminiscent of the contrast between Seth Rogen and Zac Efron in Bad Neighbours, a film 22 Jump Street constantly recalls, with its same brash, boyish sense of humour and nostalgic regret for lost adolescence. Both uncredited, Rogen (as Morton Schmidt) and Dave Franco (as Eric Molson), both in Bad Neighbours, turn up here, as if to emphasise the point. The crowd that liked Bad Neighbours with just love 22 Jump Street, a rare sequel that’s arguably an improvement on its original, at least in the consistent and big laughs department.
This Police Academy-style movie is based on the idea that everybody loves adults acting like overgrown adolescents, which is pretty much true. Most folks after a laugh will find Hill and Tatum’s tongue-in-cheek performances and clownish capers irresistible. Just like the star duo’s relationship, the film’s attitude to women and gays is contradictory and odd.
In real life Hill has got himself in a mess having to apologise for an anti-gay slur under pressure when he assures us he’s a pro-gay guy. That isn’t surprising, because the film finds itself in this same mess. Its attitude to guns, shooting and killing, as well as sex and drugs, is just appalling, but it’s only an anything goes comedy. And it’s a hilarious one.
They’ve painted themselves into a bit of a corner at the end with all the Jump Street sequel trailers, but 23 Jump Street in inevitable. Bring it on!
(C) Derek Winnert 2014 Movie Review
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