22 Jump Street review: Jonah Hill's yearning for Channing Tatum is never in doubt

3.00

Unlike most buddy movies, the homoeroticism is never suppressed

In an era in which sequels and reboots of old franchises invariably have more to do with merchandising than cinema, you can’t help but warm to the glee with which writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller customise other people’s ideas.

They did a wonderful job with The Lego Movie, foregrounding the kids’ toys in a way which will have made the manufacturers happy while also filling the film with ironic and subversive pop cultural references that kept the parents entertained.

Lord and Miller are in equally inventive form with 22 Jump Street, their follow-up to their own 21 Jump Street (which was, in turn, based on the 80s TV series about undercover cops which helped make Johnny Depp a star.)

Whereas new superhero films tend to try to conceal the fact that they are re-telling a story that has been told countless times on screen before, Lord and Miller make a virtue of the fact that the new film is intended as a near carbon copy of its predecessor. That’s part of the joke. “Do the same thing as first time. Everybody’s happy,” is the philosophy.

In 21 Jump Street, cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) infiltrated a high school to catch the dealers of a drug called H.F.S. The subtle change this time round is that they are going undercover at a local university college instead to hunt down the supplier of new drug called Why Fy. (This enables takers to study with intense focus for four hours and then to party wildly.)

The humour here ranges from Mack Sennett-style slapstick to sophisticated, very knowing satire. The film opens with Schmidt and Jenko trying haplessly to pass themselves off as Mexicans in an attempt to arrest a notorious drugs kingpin Ghost. (He is played by Swedish actor Peter Stormare, one of Ingmar Bergman’s old favourites.)  For no very good reason, they get attacked by an octopus and end up dangling in mid air after a collision on a bridge.

Tatum is very funny as the taciturn, slow-witted Jenko who fires off malapropisms whenever he is called on to speak. “I am so sorry for being a homophone,” he says after making an anti-gay joke. He doesn’t know the difference between “anal” and “annal” or between “carte blanche” and “Cate Blanchett.”

A bromance like no other: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum A bromance like no other: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum

There is something strangely touching about his response after arriving on campus and discovering the college has a library. “They still have books!” he exclaims in true wonder. “I thought they just put the books into the computers.” His Jenko is like a comic version of the Olympic wrestler he plays in another, far darker new movie, Foxcatcher. He’s an all-American jock: a star athlete who can open bottles of beer with his teeth but lacks anything resembling an inner life.

By contrast, Jonah Hill’s Schmidt is neurotic, self-conscious - and all inner life . He is nicknamed “Maya Angelou” after a wildly eccentric attempt at performance poetry. Whatever he does riles his boss, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube in roaring, self-parodic form.)

In most buddy movies, the homoeroticism is suppressed. Here, Schmidt’s romantic yearning for his athletic partner is never in doubt. They hold hands when they visit a therapist to discuss their relationship (and to try to smoke out the drug dealer.)

The plot sees the grizzled thirty something heroes going through all the traditional college rituals. They endure some frat party hazing. They both find new objects of affection. Schmidt begins an unlikely affair with Maya (Amber Stevens) while Jenko becomes soul mates (in a Bill and Ted-style way) with the college football team’s quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell), who is almost as dim as he is and shares his orgasmic love of Lamborghinis. Zook and Jenko don’t so much communicate in language as in whoops and in high fives. The two words they use most frequently are “dude” or “bro.” Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star in 22 Jump Street Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star in 22 Jump Street

Against the odds, Lord and Miller makes us care about characters who could easily seem like grotesque comic creations. There is a sweetness to Schmidt that is evident both in his bungling courtship of Maya and in his dogged loyalty to his fellow undercover cop. Jenko, meanwhile, is endlessly good natured, whatever insults and humiliations come his way.

For all its self-reflexive jokes, 22 Jump Street is a very traditional affair that offers audiences the same pleasures as Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello or even Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin films. Its undercover policemen heroes are yet another variation on the hapless but innocent heroes of comedies from the silent era onward. We root for them in spite of their monumental stupidity.

The film attitude toward sex is ambivalent in the extreme. There are plenty of double entendres in the dialogue but the scenes between Schmidt and Maya are very discreetly shot. We don’t see their lovemaking - we just hear about it in the lurid, mocking descriptions given by Maya’s endlessly sarcastic roommate Mercedes (Jillian Bell). Schmidt and Jenko may be well into their 30s but they are as naive as college freshmen.

In the final reel, as the cops head down to Florida, the film veers into the same territory as Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2012). The shots of thousands of scantily clad college students dancing and drinking on the beach could come straight from Korine’s film.

22 Jump Street isn’t as subversive as Spring Breakers, which turned usual beach movie conventions on their head as it exposed the racial and class tensions that went alongside the drug taking and sexual excess.

Lord and Miller opt instead for a cartoonish finale in which Schmidt and Jenko are finally given the chance to demonstrate their action hero credentials.

There is no sign of the filmmakers’ inspiration running dry. After all, they just need to keep on repeating themselves. As they demonstrate in a montage sequence over the end credits, they could easily make 20 or more Jump Street sequels following exactly the same formula - and few audiences would begrudge them if they did.

Arts and Entertainment
Loading individual letters on to an original Heidelberg printing press
books
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'