For those who might have seen the previous film in this series – 21 Jump Street – based loosely on the 1980s TV series of the same name, you’ll be rewarded with the added attraction of noting all the similarities between that film and this one.
In the postmodernist tradition (much like the self-aware Scream sequels), the script exploits a tendency for sequels to be unimaginative cash-ins on their successful predecessors that do, more often than not, little more than super-size the original plot and premise.
That this sequel does nothing to buck that trend is wholly deliberate and the makers, among them directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (fresh from their box-office triumph with The Lego Movie), fully embrace the phenomenon and make constant reference to their previous film.
Narcs go to college
Two years after the events of the first film, police chief Dickson (Ice Cube) has relocated his station to a roomier, pimped-up building on the other side of the street (number 22, get it?).
Like all movie police chiefs, he’s an angry man who seems particularly annoyed by our protagonists, undercover buddies Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum).
After posing as high school students, the pair are now in their 30s, thus pushing the credibility of their infiltration of a college campus this time around – but the script wastes no laughs in pointing this out.
On the trail of a new drug known as WHYPHY (cue mix-up gags about finding ‘wifi’), Schmidt finds himself enamoured with an art major, while Jenko ingratiates himself among the football fraternity.
As Schmidt gets the cold shoulder from the art major, Jenko’s bond with the football captain only deepens. Soon a full blown bromantic crisis is taking centre stage as an increasingly lonely Schmidt decides that he and his partner Jenko ‘want different things’ and that they need to ‘get some space’.
Brush up on pop culture
It’s a film steeped in the trends of American action-comedy lore: the pairing of an unlikely couple to mine their differences for all the comic gold that they’re worth.
Its roots lie in the buddy cop genre of Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop, while also owing a large debt, perhaps less directly, to the physical slapstick of Laurel and Hardy.
Jonah Hill has recently proven his mettle in the drama department with Moneyball and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. While I find him more interesting in roles like those, which seem to bridge his talents for both genres, he excels here as well.
Hill’s chemistry with Tatum is the main attraction, and the pair are clearly having as much fun making the film as the audience does watching it.
Ultimately it’s a throwaway summer farce, albeit a meta-farce and an occasionally very funny one at that. The final act amps up the laughs while spoofing Harmony Korine’s art-trash hit Spring Breakers.
Be sure to stick around for the credits as one of the highlights comes at the end, with a list of future sequels from 23 Jump Street and onwards, seeing the duo enrol in, amongst others, cooking school, flight school and dance school – with 2121 Jump Street sending them to Space Academy.
22 Jump Street
Dir: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller; US action-comedy, 2014, 111 mins
Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Ice Cube
Premiered 19 June