Film Review: 22 Jump Street (MA15+) (USA, 2014)

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When it was first announced a few years ago that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill would be starring in a comedy reboot of the popular 1980’s TV series 21 Jump Street, sceptics around the world raised their eyebrows. To put it bluntly, it sounded like a stupid idea. No one was really holding out for a Jump Street reboot, and pairing Hill with the then comedically untested Tatum was considered the kiss of death for the project. But the studio had a secret weapon up their sleeve in the form of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Under their guidance the film turned out to be a self-aware and hilarious hit, cleverly parodying the concept of pointless reboots and discovering a buddy pairing for the ages in Hill and Tatum. The success of the first film has brought us 22 Jump Street, a sequel that raises the bar in terms of action, laughs and humour in a way so clever that it parodies the entire nature of big budget sequels. It’s not your average comedy sequel.

After joining the Jump Street program and solving a major drug case by going undercover as high school students, police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are enjoying life as a crime fighting power couple. Their boss, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), sends them undercover again as brothers, this time as college students. Their mission is to infiltrate a drug ring within the college, identify the dealer and find the suppliers. Their friendship comes under strain as Schmidt struggles to find his college groove, while Jenko fits right in, befriending the popular students and joining the football team. The friends have to sort out their differences and solve the case while navigating the ups and downs of college life.

What you may notice about the general ‘infiltrate the dealers, find the supplier’ plot of 22 Jump Street is how similar it is to that of the original film. This is no mistake, and the film constantly references the fact that sequels often just give audiences the same film as the first and slap a different number on it (looking at you, The Hangover 2). Schmidt and Jenko’s Deputy Chief, played by Nick Offerman, acts as a tongue-in-cheek conduit for the movie studio executives, telling them to “just do the same thing as last time”. So many of the laughs in 22 Jump Street come from this type of self-referential humour, and the film can be seen as a kind of parody of sequels. The film is really operating on another level of cleverness rarely seen in mainstream comedy, and the film is so densely packed with jokes that repeat viewings will be hugely rewarding. But all of those clever jokes mean nothing if the surrounding film doesn’t earn them, and 22 Jump Street earns them in spades. The film is a laugh-a-minute affair that will keep the entire cinema roaring all the way through, making it one of the most consistently hilarious and fun films in recent memory. The film also functions perfectly as a buddy cop movie, and the opening action sequence in which Schmidt and Jenko attempt to take down a drug cartel would sit comfortably in any straight action movie.

Jonah Hill has been building an incredible career over the past few years, cleverly balancing broader comedic appearances with his high-brow Oscar nominated work in films like Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street. Hill’s comedy seems effortless; one of the biggest laughs in the film comes simply from the way he walks across the campus after staying out the whole night. Channing Tatum complements Hill perfectly in every way, and so much of what Tatum says and does is so much funnier simply because a guy who looks and acts like him just shouldn’t be funny. But when you put them together it’s like fireworks, and the film rests comfortably on their incredible chemistry. Ice Cube gets a lot more to do this time around and his increased role is incredibly welcome. His involvement in the plot is more than it initially seems, and this provides some of the biggest laughs of the film. Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) gives some nice support as Jenko’s new friend Zook, and Amber Stevens is a charming addition as Schmidt’s new flame Maya.

22 Jump Streets succeeds where so many comedy sequels fail by not attempting to hide the fact that it is a film designed to repeat the formula of the original. This honesty allows the film-makers to have a lot of fun referring to the first film and the ridiculous nature of sequels in general. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum shine again in roles they were born to play, giving us one of the most perfect comedy pairings in recent history. The inevitable 23 Jump Street can’t come soon enough, just as long as Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are around to control the chaos. These guys are the most exciting voice in comedy at the moment, and they bring an energy to this film that is impossible to ignore. The studios need to throw money at them and let them make whatever they want to for the foreseeable future.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

22 Jump Street is in cinemas around Australia this Thursday June 19th