Expect 22 Jump Street to make some serious money this weekend. Like Kobe money. And not just because 21 Jump Street earned 5x its budget at the box office – though that itself is astounding – but also because 22 is at least as funny as the first film. Then there’s a technical bump: The first film made twice as much domestically as it did internationally. Typically, that ratio is reversed. As a new property, it’s no surprise that 21 Jump Street wasn’t a huge international draw, but good word of mouth, the influence of DVDs and rentals, and the continuous rise of both Channing Tatum’s and Jonah Hill’s popularity, all suggest 22 should see a much better international take than 21. And, it’s funny.
Synopsis: After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) when they go deep undercover at a local college. But when Jenko meets a kindred spirit on the football team, and Schmidt infiltrates the bohemian art major scene, they begin to question their partnership. Now they don’t have to just crack the case – they have to figure out if they can have a mature relationship. If these two overgrown adolescents can grow from freshmen into real men, college might be the best thing that ever happened to them. (c) Sony
Comedies can be hit or miss, and a fear that all the jokes are in the trailer perpetually dogs them. After a recap of the funniest moments from the first film, comic relief comes from finding most of the gags in the trailer were mined from the first few minutes of the film. Additionally, many of the gags in the trailer are just a tiny slice of a much larger sequence. The concept of running gags sees even greater use in later sequences not even hinted at in the trailer. Being a college setting, one particularly funny element starts with Jonah Hill’s ‘Schmidt’ hooking up with a co-ed. It’s not a one-off joke. There’s a great poetry reading gag beforehand, the more awkward than you can imagine morning exchange, the walk of shame, and the puffed up bragging ritual later on. This is the usual sequence and by itself would have been very well executed. But that joke is brought back again later, and it slays.
As a co-writer, Hill’s in the driver’s seat, but Channing Tatum proves again to have a natural skill in keeping pace with Hill’s machinations and comedic inventiveness. The two will try anything for a joke, but even the lamest attempts still have a happy-silly charm to them. They’re a truly charismatic Hollywood power couple, like Abbot and Costello, Lucy and Desi, or Brad and Angelina. And though slapstick never really features in 22, visual gags are endless – in particular, Hill’s inability to keep up with Tatum’s ever increasingly superhuman parkour skills. It’s not enough to keep doing more impressive stunts – it’s the how’s and when’s, and what’s happening at the same time. The film is very conscientious about keeping everything humming all at once, so any joke, gag, or character is playing off at least one other at all times. So, it’s not just Tatum in a hyper-sexualized workout session with a football teammate, but Hill’s weepy heartache at watching it from another dorm via a spy camera. A lesser film would think the gay subtext of the workout would be funny enough – but 22 knows it’s not the silly scenes, but the relationship friction and competing goals of being cool versus solving the case that provide the foundation for comedy gold.
Even Ice Cube’s persona is leveraged to maximum comedic effect. While he could barely keep a straight face against Kevin Hart in Ride Along, here Cube has no problem at all glaring a steely menace at anyone crossing his path, and for a good 10 minutes it kept the audience at one sneak preview in a constant fit of uproarious laughter. Also, The Lucas Brothers provide amusing interruptions that help avoid a cliched comedy rhythm and Jillian Bell (Bridesmaids, Eastbound & Down) stands out for her rapid-fire running commentary and a fight scene with Jonah Hill’s ‘Schmidt’ that may best the one between Seth Rogen and Zac Efron in Neighbors.
Written by Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall, and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and The Lego Movie), 22 Jump Street proves once again Jonah Hill’s gifted foresight for insisting Channing Tatum play the role of Jenko. While low brow for sure, the film is less male genitalia obsessed than Neighbors (but only slightly) and (oh, just a bit) more relationship obsessed than A Million Ways to Die In the West, and arguably, the funniest of the three. With an effortless on screen chemistry between the leads, solid input from the rest of the cast, complex comedic setups, and a willingness to try anything for a joke, 22 Jump Street may prove to be the comedy to beat for the rest of 2014.