I am relatively new to the Jump Street phenomenon. The first outing for the hapless thirty year old undercover teenagers completely passed me by. But when I saw the trailer for the most recent offering, the humorously named 22 Jump Street, I knew I had missed out on something brilliant. I quickly caught up with the antics of Jenko and Schmidt and found myself unable to move for laughing. The sequel did not disappoint.
The film opens with a “last time on Jump Street” section, which provides a neat little nod to its televisual origins. Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) begin this latest film by struggling to crack a Mexican drug gang – in itself a truly hilarious sequence wherein neither of the two leads are able to maintain the Spanish accents of the characters they’re playing – which leads to their suspension and another undercover task under the intense gaze of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube).
This is a buddy-cop movie that works precisely because it uses the clichés of the Jenko and Schmidt being complete opposites for great comedy. The film is so clever and funny on so many levels. It’s glaringly self-aware. If you like slapstick, there is accidental shootings and octopus related injuries aplenty. If you like wordplay, there are innuendos and malapropisms in nearly every scene. It openly apes the fact that neither Hill nor Tatum look young enough to be college freshmen. Channing Tatum does a spectacular job of mocking the sexy-but-stupid stereotype. But the film’s success surely lies in the fact that it actively deconstructs the Hollywood sequel. When given their second mission to infiltrate a student drugs ring, it is clearly pointed out that this is the exact same storyline as the previous film. The film is also littered with references to the fact that second missions often end up going way over budget with only half the success of any prior attempts. It basically promises to be a repeat of 21 Jump Street. Which is okay, because that was hilarious too. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are back on board for this equally outlandish operation, and it never fails to live up to the original. It is pure, unapologetic silliness on a large scale.
In a blatantly tongue-in-cheek role reversal, it is Jenko who finds himself hanging out with the popular jocks this time, whilst Schmidt gets all romantic and emotional with the art students. In a bid to impress the impossibly beautiful Maya (Amber Stevens), Schmidt participates in a poetry slam. His recital – which, in itself is an absolutely genius send-up of the efforts we have just witnessed – is proof alone of Hill’s talent for both physical and quick-witted verbal comedy. Jonah Hill is fast becoming one of the most exciting actors to go and see. Not only was he involved with the script in this film and the original, he is the best thing on screen at all times. He meets any platitudes about heavier men head on and twists them to make great slapstick. He comes across as genuinely quick-witted. He is brilliant at being over the top, just as he was in The Wolf of Wall Street. Not that Tatum is far behind in the comedy stakes. His confusion over Cate Blanchett and carte blanche might just be the most hysterical line I have ever heard in a film. His sincere delivery, coupled with the utterly blank look on his face, saw me dissolve into laughter and completely miss the rest of that scene.
Needless to say, the pair’s bid to expose the drug dealer on campus doesn’t exactly run smoothly. Schmidt is momentarily distracted by his relationship with Maya, which is continually interrupted by her seething room-mate (a brilliantly vicious Jillian Bell). Meanwhile, Jenko finds himself genuinely enjoying playing football and questions his future as a cop, which leads to one of the funniest couple’s therapy scenes I have ever witnessed. Fuelled by jealousy, Schmidt is intent to prove that his partner’s new friend, Zook (Kurt Russell’s son, Wyatt) is responsible for the drugs. This leads the not-so-dynamic duo to “break up” and go their separate ways in the investigation. But the interlude in this bromance is, thankfully, brief. Hill and Tatum play so well off each other. They have all the charm and appeal of an old-fashioned screwball comedy. If old fashioned screwball comedies were strewn with references to sexual positions, genitalia and drugs.
The conclusion to the film – without giving too much away – is spectacular carnage. With a Spring Break beach party as its backdrop, chaos is an understatement. It has some of the most skilfully funny fist fights you will ever have the pleasure of killing yourself laughing at. But, given the pair at the heart of this, it also features brilliant dialogue as the pair tie themselves in knots trying to explain their way out of the mess they find themselves in. Also, you can expect every Tatum wannabe sporting his “Sun’s Out, Gun’s Out” vest on their not-so-perfectly formed biceps this summer. After saving the day, Jenko and Schmidt reaffirm their (albeit in a roundabout way) successful partnership and decide to stay together. But don’t worry, endearment and sentimentality lasts for all of thirty second before normal, immature service resumes.
Whilst the title sequence may well have been an affectionate pastiche of the television show, the closing credits do nothing but continue to mock the less profitable, but more ridiculous, sequels that are often churned out. It quickly launches through all sorts of nonsensical possible missions for the pair. Jump Street: Ninja School, anyone? Well, actually … maybe.