Starring: Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), Channing Tatum (White House Down), Ice Cube (Boyz n the Hood), Peter Stormare (Fargo), Amber Stevens (The Amazing Spider-Man), Wyatt Russell (Cowboys & Aliens)
Directors: Phil Lord & Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie)
Writers: Michael Baccall (Scott Pilgrim vs The World) and Oren Uziel (Mortal Kombat: Rebirth) and Rodney Rothman (Grudge Match)
Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes
Release Date: 6 June (UK), 13 June (US)
“Sequels, man. They’re rarely ever as good as the original,” said everyone ever. It’s a statement repeated so many times, the statement itself has become a cliché. But for every few inferior sequels, there is that one that equals its predecessor or, in super-special cases, surpasses it. So which camp does 22 Jump Street fall into? Comedy sequels are usually especially tainted to be terrible, so Phil Lord & Chris Miller were really going to have to pull something special to make this movie work. But remember: they are Phil Lord & Chris Miller, so why should we be worried?
Very much like how 21 Jump Street was aware of itself as a reboot of an 80’s property that no one cared about and played with it, 22 Jump Street is aware of itself as a sequel to a highly successful movie with a similar plot and bigger budget and they play with that. The story feels very similar to the first one, but they know it and they both make fun of it and play with your expectations at the same time. It’s a comedy goldmine that keeps giving every time you think it runs dry, though all the great non-meta humour also helps support the film and makes sure the film isn’t just a bunch of deconstructive, self-referential jabs at Hollywood sequels. Taking away the humour, the story itself isn’t quite as good as the first one but the movie works where it really counts, moving at a fast clip and never stooping to crass humour. Oh, and one more hyperbolic note: best end credits sequence from any movie ever. Ever!
The main reason 21 Jump Street worked was because of the fantastic chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum and it’s just as sharp here, if not more so. Their bromantic relationship is played to the limits (and I mean THE limits), and the two never seem lost for words as they throw jokes back and forth. They’re a classic comedy duo for the modern age, and I’d love to see these two do more movies together. Ice Cube returns and is even funnier here in what might be the man’s finest performance, even managing to get in on the action this time around. Tatum has a fun subplot with Wyatt Russell as his new BFF, though its resolution feels a bit rushed. Hill’s relationship with new love interest Amber Stevens feels similarly cut short, but the jokes mined from that are so funny that it doesn’t matter. The villains are a bit weaker here than the first, with Peter Stormare’s one joke of being behind the times starts to run thin, but the film quickly wraps up before it starts to get grading. I also wish there was a bit more from cast members of the first film, as Tatum’s old nerd friends only have a couple of walk-ons and Brie Larson’s character isn’t even mentioned; a subject that could have made for a fun self-referential joke, but they totally pass it up. The movie is also super-stuffed with fun cameos, none of which I’ll spoil here, but rest assured they all work extremely well.
Action comedies need to deliver on the action as well as the comedy, and 22 Jump Street manages to deliver on both ends of the bargain. Whilst not exactly as spectacular as something you’d find in a straight-up action flick, the film does have some entertaining set pieces leading to a really fun climax at Spring Break. The cinematography is bright and colourful, and Mark Mothersbaugh’s music brings back a lot of the cues from the first one as well as some fun uses of popular tunes. The visual effects aren’t that important, but their use during the new drug trip sequence is really cheesy in a good way.
22 Jump Street transcends the expectations of the Hollywood sequel by picking it apart bit by bit and then reassembling it into something new but familiar. Everything you loved about the first one is here in spades, and is easily the best comedy of the year so far. Phil Lord & Chris Miller have managed to make two excellent movies in one year, certifying their status as a creative team that can’t be rivalled. Where the franchise goes from here is very much addressed in the film, but I do think it’d be best to stop now whilst they’re on a high or go in a totally new and insane direction for the follow-up. But as for where Lord & Miller go next with their career? That’s the question I wanted answered.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10