Directed By: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill
I got a lot of flak for not liking “Neighbors” earlier this year due to its lackluster dialogue, plot and “dick and fart” jokes that just fall flat. Generally I like my comedies that provide smart, witty humor that might have a crude joke every now and then, but never relies on them for the sake of a joke. This is mostly why I love Edgar Wright, with his comedies being quick smart jokes with visual humor to go along with the hilarious dialogue. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, have done films like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and The Lego Movie: so the bar is set pretty high, With these two directors I feel like I have found new chefs that know how to cook good steaks.
For those of you who didn’t see the first film, the first thing that comes on the screen is a “Previously on 21 Jump Street” with the spirit of the original TV show. It recaps the events of the film within only about thirty seconds and quickly sets the pace for the sequel. The film once again follows officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) as they have been promoted to go in as undercover officers to infiltrate a college that is slowly being overrun with drug trafficking. If you think the plot sounds incredibly similar to the first film, you’re not wrong.
The film even addresses itself in knowing that Hollywood doesn’t want to try anything new and decides to just make the same thing over and over hoping that no one would even notice. They even point out that they doubled the budget thinking that it would do twice as good this time around. Yes this film is incredibly meta in its discussions on not only Hollywood, but even the careers of its actors and directors. It was quite fascinating as my audience slowly started getting the joke about what they were talking about.
One thing the film nails spectacularly is the actual college life and atmosphere as demonstrated by students doing things that real students do not Hollywood versions of college students. There’s even a montage of items that are freakin essential to college life, and yes Q Tips are the greatest thing ever. Story of my life. Not only just that but it accurately shows a good frat life, while still having drinking, not making it out to be party heavy or stupid, something that Neighbors did.
To me it feels like the writers sat down and wrote everything they did wrong with the first film, and then said, ok lets make another one but lets not make these mistakes. Does this improve upon the first film? YES. Nearly everything has been trimmed out or shortened to maximum effect and laughs. While there is some improvisation, it has been edited down and is under control allowing it to highlight the best moments so that the scene never gets boring, tired or the joke gets run into the ground.
Ice Cube shows up again as the angry black captain, and really steals every scene he’s in. I have never really liked Mr Cube in such films as “Are We There Yet” but here he really shines and has some moments that had me laughing uncontrollably. Yes this is a film that genuinely made me laugh harder than I have in nearly a year.
If I had some complaints, they would only be minor. The third act to the film
skimps out on some of the major laughs in favor of more action making it feel longer. Also I found that one of these scenes in the third act was a single joke that kept going and in the end could have been cut out entirely and nothing would have been missed. I don’t think its major since it was only one brief scene and doesn’t harm the film.
Would I recommend 22 Jump Street? Without a doubt. It has great on screen chemistry between its two leads, a good plot that has twists and some really well written humor that doesn’t have to rely on immature jokes to make people laugh. Personally I didn’t know it was even possible to make the song “Higher” by Creed funny, but these guys proved you can take nearly anything and make it hilarious. Personally I can’t wait to see what these directors do next, but I’ll be there opening night. High Recommend.
ps. There is a very fast reference to The Lego Movie….see if you can find it. Also stay during the credits…just a suggestion…