It is a well known fact in Hollywood that the bigger, louder and much more expensive sequel to a recent surprise hit is never going to be as good as the original. The sequel will be a quick cash-in and a badly thought out retread of the original – which probably wasn’t that good anyway – repeating all the jokes and plot devices and offering turgid references and cameos pointlessly referring to the original film but without an inch of originality. 22 Jump Street is very much this kind of film, but the great thing about it is that it knows it.
Picking up exactly where the previous film left off, Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) are investigating drug smuggling via internet college. After one big expensive action set piece, it is decided that their best option is to infiltrate a college and find the dealers from the inside – exactly like they did before, which worked surprisingly well. However, once in college, their loyalty to each other is strained when one of them has the time of his life while the other one suffers.
21 Jump Street was a surprisingly good film – up until the action sequence at the end at least – which had fun with the idea that it is a thoughtless reboot of a dead franchise, which no one remembered. The film spoofed the genre fairly well and also had the benefit of actually being funny and quite inventive. The sequel is the same again, but it manages to make a virtue of the repetition, now spoofing not only the genre but also the mechanics of the industry where money is thrown blindly at totally hopeless products and excess replaces talent. And while this set-up may seem to be rather limited and it sometimes seems inevitable that the film will soon run out of steam, it remains inventive and fast paced enough not to outstay its welcome.
Like the first film, the main virtue of 22 Jump Street is that it is funny. The meta element is funny and often really rather clever, but the film is not limited to these kinds of jokes. Indeed, one of the biggest laughs (I saw the film in a packed screening), one that totally obscured the next few lines, was entirely down to the direction, Channing Tatum’s timing and a very well chosen sound effect. The film may be mostly low-humour but it is done with such verve and obvious energy that it never feels lazy. Compared to other recent comedies – the unbelievably turgid and vain This Is The End is a recent low point – 22 Jump Street has an incredible amount of energy and a real passion for what it is doing.
The film doesn’t hang together perfectly and it does have its wandering moments and the action sequences are always never as funny as they need to be (when are they ever?), but the film is consistently funny throughout and that is really all one needs. Comedies come under more negative scrutiny than other types of films (and are much harder to review) but if one looks at 22 Jump Street in terms of what it sets out to achieve and how it achieves it, then it is very clearly a real success. Ultimately, its success is down to good timing, good writing, good performances, good direction and, maybe more than all of this, effort.