June 12, 2014

Review: '22 Jump Street' Makes Fun of Itself

"Nobody gave a sh*t about the Jump Street reboot, but you got lucky."
Jonah Hill Channing Tatum 22 Jump Street

What's so refreshing about directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller's 22 Jump Street, a ridiculous follow and send up of their TV-to-film remake/reboot 21 Jump Street, is its acknowledgement and meta commentary on the disappointing nature of comedy sequels. It's so playfully self-aware of how it explores genre comedy to subvert and exploit situations for big laughs. It's a sequel about sequels and an extension of the sort of romance between its two heterosexual male leads.

Lord and Miller's animation background (Clone High, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and The Lego Movie) suit the action comedy well, often framing scenes as a live action cartoon. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back as Schmidt and Jenko with an even more homoerotic, co-dependant relationship than ever before. The jokes and one-liners come fast and furious as the core bond between the pair is amped up and threatened with the added conflict of Wyatt Russell as Zook, Jenko's new frat bro BFF, and Amber Stevens playing Maya, a refreshing fill-in for Brie Larson as Schmidt's new love interest.

In particular, Ice Cube's angry demeanour and rap persona are used perfectly to pay off jokes and comic situations that should be old but never tire. This is how the sequel doubles down on the elements of the first (opening with a "previously on" segment) even mocking plot points and suggesting elements of the story are exact retreads to subvert our expectations for humour. Lord and Miller waste no scene or element in order to fire off jokes or gags superbly playing off these lowered expectations. Actress Jillian Bell (Workaholics) gives a whole performance based solely on constantly delivering deadpan one-liners about Hill's advanced age in college that should be laborious yet works to move the film and jokes forward nicely.

22 Jump Street is easily one of the more successful and satisfying comedy sequels ever made as it embraces the attributes that should make it inherently inferior. It's bigger, bolder, more expensive, and louder for no reason yet probably funnier, more dynamic, and enjoyable than the first. It builds on everything 21 Jump Street established, constantly referencing and harkening back to it and the original '80/90s series genre troupes. Lord and Miller, Hill and Tatum combine to drive the buddy cop and action comedy genres together again and better.

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