“How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” asks Bruce Willis’ everyman hero John McClane in the more expensive, not as good, Die Hard sequel Die Hard 2, neatly articulating and dismissing the audience’s similar incredulity.

Originally subtitled Die Harder, Die Hard 2 was essentially the same film as Die Hard but bigger, bolder, more cynical, dumber and less likable. Much less likable. The answer to how the same shit could happen to the same guy twice of course is money. Die Hard was a huge hit and while cocaine, clown porn and pneumatic starlets who can suck a tennis ball through a garden hose all have their attractions, there’s nothing the bean counters who run Hollywood like more than money. Which is why the same shit has happened now to the same guy FIVE times and counting.

An amusing extended piss-take of the forgotten and frankly awful Johnny Depp-starring ‘80s TV show about cops going undercover as high school students, 21 Jump Street was an unexpectedly huge hit back in 2012 so it was inevitable that it would get its own bigger, bolder, less likable, superfluous sequel and it’s equally inevitable that it would turn it’s very pointlessness into an increasingly tired running gag. So sit back and relax as the same shit happens to Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill all over again while Ice Cube and Nick Offerman turn up at regular intervals and point out in meta-fashion that you’re watching a bigger, louder, not quite as good sequel.

Following the superfluous sequel formula to the letter – if it ain’t broke, why bother fixing it? – 22 Jump Street sees dopey cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) sent undercover again by gruff Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), this time as freshman at the local college, to bust a drug ring pushing a dangerous new designer drug that helps students work rest and party hearty. But as Schmidt worms his way into the college’s arty, poetry crowd and romances art student Maya (Amber Stevens), Jenko finds a kindred spirit in lunkheaded captain of the football team Zook (Wyatt Russell) and the chance of finally realising his own athletic dreams, forcing the partners to question their relationship. With Spring Break looming bitches, can they crack the case and save their friendship?

“Ladies, nobody gave a shit about the Jump Street reboot,” says Nick Offerman’s world-weary police chief early in 22 Jump Street, “But you got lucky. So now this department has invested a lot of money to make sure Jump Street keeps going.” So pleased are they with how meta they’re being, Lego Movie directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord then proceed to make this joke repeatedly for the rest of the film’s running time, a joke that really wears thin by the time our heroes head down Mexico way for the climactic Spring Break showdown with the baddies. Didn’t Scream 2 already do this way back in 1997?

Too smug, cynical and self-aware for its own good, 22 Jump Street sticks to the established formula of the first film, upping Ice Cube’s shouty screentime, bringing back Jenko’s superfluous science geek BFFs and even bringing back the now imprisoned Rob Riggle’s Mr Walters and Dave Franco’s Eric for a pointless cameo that serves only for Riggle to praise the wonders of having a vagina (Schmidt shot his penis of in the earlier film) and to gleefully proclaim “I’m Eric’s bitch!” The film’s funny, often gusset-wettingly so, but it’s not at as funny as it thinks it is, and certainly not as funny as the universal love being splaffed over it would suggest! Like Seth MacFarlane’s recent hit-and-miss vehicle A Million Ways To Die In The West, there are long periods where the jokes miss, are often just pale imitations of the first film (particularly a manic drug trip sequence) and the film is at its best, a wonderful opening Buster Keaton-esque slapstick stunt aside, when focusing on the ups and downs of Jenko and Schmidt’s bromance, a couples counselling session with the college shrink a particular highlight.

While the extra time given to Ice Cube’s perpetually angry Captain Dickson is a welcome addition and Tatum and Hill’s chemistry is so thick they should just get a room, Tatum’s sweet, almost puppyish appeal tempering Hill’s more obnoxious, insecure manchild schtick, there’s a tiredness about the film, a laziness I found was also present in the directing team’s almost universally beloved The Lego Movie. It’s excessively pleased with itself. Yes, you’ve made a sequel that brazenly points out how crap sequels tend to be, well done, what else you got? What else 22 Jump Street has is a hilarious and creepy turn from Jillian Bell as Maya’s weird, aggressive roommate who’s verbally and physically combative scenes with Hill are a joy.

As cynical and smug as the sequels it’s satirising, don’t be fooled, Nick Offerman’s police chief is right, things are always worse the second time around! 22 Jump Street is Police Academy 2 for the 21st century, it just has more dick jokes and doesn’t have Bobcat Goldthwait.

 

VERDICT:[rating=2]

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