Friday, June 13, 2014

22 JUMP STREET: A Funny As F*** Follow-up That Makes Fun Of Itself

Now playing at a multiplex near us all:

(Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, 2014)

The first movie looked like it was going to be crappy, but actually turned out to be fairly funny in its riffing on being a big screen version of a ‘80s undercover cop show.

The sequel amps it up by riffing on being a sequel to the surprise hit big screen version of a ‘80s undercover cop show.

And I laughed a lot more this time. A lot more.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return as officers Schmidt and Jenko, the partying, gun-toting duo who engage in their own particular brand of bromantic banter. This time, much of their banter revolves around being on an investigation that's just like the last one, except now it's college, not high school, and they have a much bigger budget.

To amusingly justify the movie's title, the police team’s headquarters has been moved across the street into a bigger church with vastly upgraded facilities resulting in many comments about how needlessly expensive everything looks. 

Ice Cube, reprising his hilariously drawn role as Captain Dickson, even remarks that the place looks like it's out of IRON MAN.

Posing as college students at the fictional MC State (short for Metropolitan City State), Hill and Tatum's assignment involves finding who's been dealing the dangerous drug “WhyPhy” (WiFi).

In the process, Tatum falls in with some air-headed football players (Wyatt Russell and Jimmy Tatro), while Hill, in the guise of a slam poet, falls for an art student (Amber Stevens). The film here toys with rom com conventions, but funnily enough more with Tatum connecting with Russell (Kurt's son btw) than Hill's courtship of Stevens; they even make a meta joke about them having a meet-cute via the merging of a meat sandwich and a Q-Tip.

Popping up throughout the guys' campus shenanigans, are cameos by Patton Oswalt as a psychology professor, standup partners/identical twins the Lucas Brothers as drugged-up dorm neighbors, Peter Stormare as an international criminal only known as “Ghost,” along with, from the first film, Dave Franco, and Rob Riggle, now prison inmate lovers (Franco, not by choice).

Riggle was the previous films' secret bad guy, and there's one in this one too, but don't worry I won't spoil that tasty twist.

Gags about sequel tropes are joined by gags about how old the leads look to be college students (“I got 99 problems but being young ain't one,” Jillian Bell as Stevens' acerbic roommate quips), gags about how close to gay these guys get in their bro-bonding, gags about college sex (the walk of shame bits are dead on), just gags about everything along these lines that they could stuff into the 112 minute running time.

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher, the dudes behind the also ultra meta, and equally hilarious THE LEGO MOVIE, working from a screenplay by Michael Bacall (writer of the first one), Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman, never let up on the film's sense of fun right through to end where they go from making fun of sequels to taking on entire franchises.

Hill and Tatum are very funny here, they play off each other brilliantly and again prove that their pairing is no fluke, but Ice Cube, in his expanded role, is an angry comedy machine! In a restaurant-set scene in which he finds out that his daughter is dating Hill, Cube's performance is a tour de force of comic acting.

22 JUMP STREET is a funny as fuck follow-up that makes fun of itself for its simple cynical existence as a sequel, but it never makes fun of us for watching it. It wants us to be as in on the joke as they are, and have us all laugh together. With this many surefire laughs, and well tapped talent on display, I even felt a bit laughed out afterwards. Still, make sure you stay through the end credits for the final stinger.

Oddly, one of the only joke misfires was a reference to the comedy stylings of Tracy Morgan *. This was, of course, filmed last year, and it's so not a diss, but it got a bit of a gasp from the audience at the screening I attended. However, that bit of bad timing didn't throw off the crowd for long; they were rolling as soon as the next joke came around, which was less than 10 seconds later.

* If you haven't heard, Tracy Morgan is currently in critical but stable condition after his car crash last weekend. Film Babble Blog sends its best wishes for Morgan, the other victims of the accident, and their families.

More later...


Zach Murphy said...

What a great week for sequels (never thought I'd be saying that).

Kevin King said...

Couldn't agree more...They could have gone too far with the meta-film and self-referentiality, but instead it was very well done. I'm especially thinking of the final chase scene, where they are trying not to make the "police operation" (i.e. the film) too expensive. "I'll try to lose 'em in the robotics lab!"