16 June 2014

22 Jump Street is the first great comedy sequel

Comedy sequels are strange beasts, usually unwilling to take the risks that made the first film popular, instead relying on references to jokes from it's predecessor to get "That was funny in the first film and I remember it" laughs from the audience. They often end up feeling tired or unoriginal, and as such are usually less memorable and less funny than the first film, devoid of the creativity that made the first film a success. 22 Jump Street acknowledges this issue with comedy sequels, playing it through with a nudge and a wink, giving the audience a comedy sequel that is genuinely funnier than its predecessor.

Following the same story structure, Schmidt and Jenko are sent to college to find the dealers and suppliers of a new drug called WhyPhy after a student overdoses and dies. Acknowledging that this is the exact same set up as the first film, the two cops are explicitly told to do exactly what they did last time, which will make the people funding the project happy. It continues and expands on the meta-commentary that was provided by Nick Offermans character in the first film, coming close to (but not quite breaking) the fourth wall. Characters openly remark on how it is less risky to just do the first case again, both playing into and mocking the idea that comedy sequels have to be the same as the first one. It's a very smart part of a film that presents itself as a stupid one, with enough knowledge about what it is to avoid coming of as pretentious or cringe worthy.

If that isn't your type of comedy though, don't worry. There is a huge variety of the type of jokes on display here, with visual gags reminiscent of films such as Airplane! next to more modern humour and jokes that play on audience expectations. The entire film is hilarious from start to finish, even giving an extra funny slide show that mocks the future of the Jump Street series during the closing credits. Channing Tatum is just as good here as he was in the first film, but the highlight comes from Ice Cube's Captain Dickinson. With a welcome increase in screen time, he provides some of the biggest laughs of the film, playing his angry black captain as the perfect straight man to rub up against Schmidt and Jenko.

The main problem that 22 Jump Street suffers from is that it doesn't flow as well as the first film, with the structure of the story feeling disjointed and bloated. It's about half and hour longer than it should be, with a plot point in the middle that takes all the momentum out of the film, adding an unnecessary 10 - 20 minutes to the running time. It lacks the restraint that the first one had, with several jokes running on for too long, and one scene in particular feeling entirely unnecessary, missing a punchline and continuing anyway. There are several instances of what I assume is Jonah Hill improvising that feel like they should have been cut, and the trailer takes away from some of the jokes by ruining the surprise factor that makes them work within the film, as well as spoiling what could have been a mild plot twist. It's a shame that the directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, didn't have time to rework this script like they did with 21 Jump Street, as I feel that they may have tightened it up and removed or improved some of the jokes that don't quite work here

Even the bits that don't work still end up being at least mildly amusing thanks to the central relationship between Schmidt and Jenko, which has escalated from the bromance of the first film to a true platonic relationship in this, from a strong friendship to an almost sibling like level of love. The chemistry between the two stars is just as good here as it was in the first film, with each of them still requiring guidance from the other throughout the majority of the film. A lot of the laughs come from a perspective of them not realising just how close they are, and the disappointment that can happen when someone isn't as invested in a friendship or relationship as you are. This relationship and the central duo are poked fun at without ever resorting to gay jokes, which almost certainly would have happened in lesser films.

Although 22 Jump Street might not be a better film than its predecessor thanks to its lack of structure in the middle, it is certainly funnier, offering a wide variety of jokes and comedic styles. Lord and Miller have once again proved that they are talented directors, getting the most out of their cast and the script that they were given. If you liked 21 Jump Street, I can't see you not enjoying 22 Jump Street, with the few negative aspects being far out-weighed by the quality and quantity of the jokes.

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