Sunday, October 12, 2014

22 Jump Street - leaping on the same bandwagon

movie review

The boys in blue are back in college and a lot can happen the second time around

In one of its many meta moments, buddy cop comedy 22 Jump Street concisely lays out its own game plan. “Do the same thing as last time,” its characters are instructed, “[and] everyone’s happy.” And that is precisely what the film does. The sequel to 2012’s 21 Jump Street (which itself was based on the 1980s crime drama) sticks to the template of its predecessor while doling out the same brand of self-referential humour that made the first movie such a surprising delight.

The target, this time, are sequels and their inherent trappings. Officers Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are on a mission almost identical to the one that made them a success in the previous instalment — busting a drug ring by going undercover and posing as college students. But before they can unmask the perpetrators, they realise that being a pretend college student comes with its own set of problems. When they make new friends and bond with kindred spirits — with Jenko gravitating towards the jocks and Schmidt finding himself amidst the artsy, bohemian crowd — their bromance is put to test, making it uncertain whether their partnership will survive this episode.

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have once again created a zany, playful comedy that is high on energy and brimming with self-awareness. The plot doesn’t seem to hold much weight and it (intentionally) isn’t the most important element of the film. Instead, it’s the meta-commentary that propels the movie’s engine. As it spoofs itself and makes fun of its own existence, 22 Jump Street misses no chance to remind us that this is a sequel about sequels, repeatedly finding humour in franchise clich├ęs, thanks to a sly script that never fails to make you laugh. Even its end credits vignette, which features a mock montage of future instalments, is a hoot and makes an amusing short in itself.

The odd couple dynamics between its leads have also been put to good use. Both Tatum and Hill are in fine form here and seem totally committed to their goofy roles. The supporting talent is also impressive, led with a knowing wink by Ice Cube and Nick Offerman who play Jenko and Schmidt’s superiors. Other standouts include Wyatt Russell, who portrays a jock that sparks camaraderie with Jenko, the Lucas Brothers, who play a pair of stoner twins that occupy a neighbouring dorm room, and Jillian Bell as Schmidt’s new girlfriend’s (Amber Stevens) intensely hostile roommate.

Of course, sticking to the same template also has its downsides. The humour becomes a tad predictable, and the proceedings aren’t as exciting as they were the first time around. Moreover, at times it feels like the movie rambles on, and sometimes it repeats its jokes too many times, drawing out the gags longer than it should.

Still, the overall experience of the film is very enjoyable. 22 Jump Street’s simultaneous embodiment and takedown of sequels as well as buddy cop movies is quite thoroughly entertaining, thanks to a witty script and slick performances, and the film is likely to amuse the viewers who enjoyed the first instalment of the series.

- By Sameen Amer

Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 12th October 2014 *

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