By Simon Miraudo
June 18, 2014
I’d like to report a murder. The buddy-cop comedy is dead, drowned in a sea of d*** jokes by directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Hey, at least it died doing what it loved. In 22 Jump Street, Lord and Miller, along with screenwriters/accomplices Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman, gleefully tear asunder every trope there is to be found in police movies, sequels, and cinematic bromances. Though it maybe means there’ll never be a need for another Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys, or perhaps even a 23 Jump Street thanks to the state 22 leaves the genre, I tell you, what a way to go. 22 Jump Street is so funny it hurts.
Lord and Miller have made a career out of spinning gold from titles that previously sounded like fake examples from Saturday Night Live of Hollywood’s unimaginative plundering of properties, including Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie, and, of course, two entire spin-offs from the 21 Jump Street TV series of the 1980’s, most famous for making a star out of Johnny Depp and not Richard Grieco. If their next effort was announced as a do-over of Chubby Rain or Kick Puncher, they’d continue to deserve no less than the highest of our hopes. Their ability to deconstruct genre is ingenious, and so too is their theatrical flair; something missing from their contemporaries Paul Feig, Judd Apatow, and Nicholas Stoller. Lord and Miller’s pictures look and feel funny, with their camera and editing tools used to help tell jokes, as opposed to being hindrances. Can you imagine Apatow orchestrating the kind of massive, exuberant finale in the heat of a heaving Spring Break celebration as Lord and Miller do in this?
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return in 22 Jump Street as undercover agents Schmidt and Jenko, this time posing as college students in the hopes of unravelling a dangerous drug ring and the plot still being totally irrelevant to our enjoyment. (Their superiors, again played by Nick Offerman and Ice Cube, go so far to insist Schmidt and Jenko do the exact same thing as “last time” to replicate their success; a not-at-all subtle reference to the expectation that sequels rebottle lightning by treading old ground.) Hill and Tatum make for the unlikeliest, most wonderful comic foils in years. A great odd couple, they’re a better romantic twosome, and the filmmakers go to great lengths to shred the thin veil of homoeroticism of earlier efforts of its type. It’s as close as two male, mainstream comedy leads have ever come to portraying lovers on screen without actually sealing the deal. The plot even consciously uncouples itself from the central investigation for a fairly long stretch to focus solely on the duo’s quasi-romantic troubles.
At a certain point the feature seems to suggest Tatum’s Jenko is on the cusp of literally coming out, after having his eyes opened by a Human Sexuality class (college!) and finding a sort-of-soulmate in the similarly lunkheaded footballer Zook (amazingly, Kurt’s son, Wyatt Russell). It’s also the second consecutive time Hill has been paired with a much younger beauty; first, the sorely-missed Brie Larson, and here, the charming Amber Stevens. Tatum has gone two for two, unattached to any woman. Did the studio balk at the idea of making their hunky leading man explicitly gay, instead of just barely subtextually? Nonetheless, 22 Jump Street is as subversive a skewering of sequels and cop movies as it is of bro-hangout films, and just like Bad Neighbours from earlier this year, it suggests a maturing of the genre as a whole. It’s hilarious as well, but you don’t need me to prove that to you; the flick does a good enough job on its own. The bro is dead, long live the bro; this new kind of bro.
22 Jump Street arrives in Australian cinemas June 19, 2014.