22 Jump Street is quite a funny film. In fact, it’s a really quite funny film. Like, I-almost-wet-myself-at-some-points type funny. In some respect, I feel ashamed for having laughed so much at a script with such arrogant American humour, but then again, in using this arrogant humour, the script is also mocking the cocky scripts of other films in the same cop-buddy genre. The whole film is just a joke of a joke, and within that, joke after joke--it’s as if Christopher Nolan woke up one day and decided to make a light-hearted comedy.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return from the first film in the ‘anti-franchise franchise’ to direct with the same writing team headed by Michael Bacall, rendering both films similar from their plots right down to their production. The difference with this sequel is that it’s ‘bigger and badder’, as goes the usual prequel-sequel trope. And, as the whole film works as a piece of parody, the concept of ‘bigger and badder’ has been taken to new extremes with boy-racer Lamborghinis and Al Pacino-style one-liners. There’s more violence, more explosions (aka more violence) and surprisingly less homophobic slurs... Although homo-erotic subtext is on full display here to criticise how films of the same genre attempt to veil tender male effeminacy with testosterone.
The beginning, despite being a fantastic parody of “in-movie recaps”, does feel a bit jerky and jarry, as if Lord and Miller just had random ideas that they wanted to get in the film somewhere. The lines finally smooth out after the first lorry-chase sequence (again, an excellent parody in itself) and the audience are re-introduced to Captain Dickson—played by Ice Cube with the prequel’s same “I’m running this sh*t” fast-talking b*tch-slapping attitude—and to Jenko’s and Schmidt’s new project: 22 Jump Street.
It could be easy for one to fatigue from the constant parodying and even self-parodying, but thankfully the script remains tight with a humour that somehow manages to retain the audience’s attention, with the humour’s diverse properties allowing it to appeal to a wider audience too. If crude jokes about genitalia aren’t your thing, then perhaps repeated misinterpretation (watch out for the “anal” and “Cate Blanchett” gag) in entirely unsuitable situations is. The film just teems with a variety that never fails to evoke a laugh, enhanced by the fact that Lord and Miller do not interrupt the script—instead, they withhold from impinging the script, and the characters, by giving them the space they need to perform. This allows for the actors’ natural humours to take centre stage whilst granting the script the integrity that could only be preserved without the awkward and false interjections from the directors. This of course means that there is no directorial style to speak of, but in comedies there rarely is—and does it matter when it’s this funny?! At the risk of sounding like a film critic for The Sun, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller provide enough comic thrills to entertain without the frills.
The same goes for the film’s cast. Once more Jenko and Schmidt (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill respectively) form the perfect duo, striking the balance between careless idiocy and frustrated intelligence. Their partnership is reminiscent of Walter Matthua’s and Jack Lemon’s outwardly adversarial but clandestinely loving bromance in The Odd Couple, with the two seeming as if they are always engaged in some sort of verbal ping-pong match against one another.
Whether there will be a 23rd Jump Street, perhaps under a Laotian or Cambodian Jesus, is yet to be known. The question is complicated by the fact that if the creators take the anti-franchise franchise too far it will turn into the very notion it’s supposedly parodying—an easy pit to fall into with the fact that 22 Jump Street has already tripled the box office of its predecessor, thus proving that there’s money in the films ready to be milked. But, for now at least, the Jump Street films are safe with the right dosage of self-awareness to still be considered hilarious.