Director: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell
After a series of tepid bromances and worse sequels to such films, comes 22 Jump Street that did what was hitherto considered impossible: a skilful followup to a hugely popular bro flick. I honestly went into this film hoping that the talent of Jonah Hill and to some extent Channing Tatum would make a palatable film that wouldn’t force the franchise to see a Hangover kind of fate.
The story picks up from the 2012 prequel 21 Jump Street where Morton Schmidt (Tatum) and Greg Jenko (Hill) on an undercover mission, join high school to unearth a drug cartel. In the latest offering, the duo join college after tracking down keywords through communication spying to find the supplier of a drug called WhyPhy. In the process of the investigation, Schmidt and Jenko drift into different friends’ circles, largely owing to their need to align with similar minded pals. Despite moving in different directions, with distractions in the form of female attention and jock-bonding for Hill and Tatum respectively, they follow through with the case in a manner similar to the prequel. Mistaken deducing of crooks, friendship fallouts, good guys revealed as quite the shady ones and even a finale chase pretty much sums put whatever is there of the plot. But what Phil Lord and Christopher Miller do is make the film entirely about the bromance. Yes there are women in their lives — Jillian Bell as Mercedes is charming in her deadpan-ish role — but the focus never waivers from Hill and Tatum. In fact, the filmmakers have gone as far as giving Tatum an arc with his soul-searching phase. Even that doesn’t come across as contrived and Tatum does an excellent job of being the hunk ruled by his heart more than his mind.
Among the women, Amber Stevens is average, though to be fair to her she barely has much to do. Ice Cube reprises his role as the potty-mouthed Capt. Dickson who helms the assignment. Peter Stormare plays Ghost and frankly should’ve got a little more meat since he is the principal villain in the film. But perhaps one can excuse Lord and Miller for reducing Ghost’s screen time after watching the entire film until the end credits. Special mention must be made about Wyatt Russell (who played Zook) and Jimmy Tatro (who played Rooster) for playing the quintessential jocks to the hilt. Forgive them for driving the wedge in the bromance because plot aside, they have put out impressive performances.
The beauty of the film lies in its lines. The plot is same ol’ same ol’ but the lines are updated, contemporary and show that the makers have made the effort to keep in touch with frat houses of today. That said, the writers take goofy humour to another level and it makes one feel a part of the fun one imagines the makers had while filming it. Unapologetic, unabashed fun that occasionally straddles with crass lines, the lead actors put together a kind of bond that seems like it’s stemming from genuine bromance.
With moments like Jenko sincerely asking his partner "Did you know I used gay slurs in high school? I didn’t even know I was a homophone", the film offers quick wit and clumsy demeanour in equal measure.
One of its greatest plus points lies is the fact that 22 Jump Street makes no attempt to go out of character as a sequel and sticks to a formula that worked superbly for the first part. It doesn’t take the success of the prequel all that seriously and puts the characters and the writing for that matter, right where they were in 21 Jump Street. The prequel itself was a satirical tribute to the 80s TV series of the same name and the latest one spares no opportunity to poke fun of all things contemporary. Even if it means cocking a snook at the Michael Bay kind of mindless films. Oh, the irony, you say? Not quite.
Watch this film for the honesty with which a mindless buddy flick is made and hopefully one would realise that it takes a lot of intelligence to play dumb.
Watch the trailer here: