I’m not a big football fan (I’m sure that won’t surprise any of you) but I do tend to get into the international tournaments. Every two years, for either the World or European Cup tournaments, I follow England through the ups and downs to a disappointingly early knock out. Then when it’s all over, and the entire nation is cross at itself for daring to hope, I return to my first love; movies.
This year though I decided not to let my affections wander. Yes, movies can disappoint too but ours is a long and involved relationship. They make me happy so much of the time that I am able to overlook the occasional silly mistake.
So it was then, that last night as the rest of the nation was watching our team lose, witnessing Luis Suárez score that second goal that will almost certainly send us home, I was in an almost empty cinema watching 22 Jump Street. I think its fair to say that I had the better time.
I wasn’t all that impressed with 21 Jump Street. Part of the problem was that a good friend of mine had raved about it. I should have known really, this was the same guy who had enthusiastically recommended the terrible Sandra Bullock film The Proposal, but he had said this buddy cop comedy was one of his films of 2012. That year I had listed in preference order all of the new releases I’d seen and for me 21 Jump Street was number forty two out of fifty three, just after Prometheus and Ted. I didn’t love it.
We spoke about this afterwards and I’d said that any film that had a bloke getting his genitalia shot off for light chuckles was just not a classy movie. As it turns out he hadn’t remembered that bit which explained everything; he clearly wasn’t paying attention to the film. Anyway, while it may have been touch and go for a while, our friendship survived. He subsequently pointed me in the direction of Ruby Sparks so all is now forgiven.
The reviews for this sequel have been really good though so, just like my friend, I thought Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum deserved the second chance that England are sure to be denied.
The first thing to say is that for me, this film is not as good as the press is saying it is. Like its predecessor, it just isn’t as funny as it thinks it is but this time I did get swept along with it. This is largely due to the charisma of the two leads but the film has another element to it that I enjoyed. The thing is that it kind of does for buddy cop films what Scream did for slasher flicks.
This is mostly evident in the repeated gags about this being a sequel. It doesn’t quite break the forth wall but much is said about how the mission this time round is exactly the same as before but with a bigger budget. Only this time they are infiltrating a college, not a school. There are also satisfying references to other movies from Tatum’s own White House Down to Lethal Weapon.
To be fair, the meta modern postmodern comments are not always sophisticated. Captain Dixon, played brilliantly again by Ice Cube, has a glass walled office that is described as a cube of ice. (See what they did there?) It’s like watching a Pantomime though, at first the gags seem really laboured and obvious and you can’t work out why other people are laughing but after half an hour you have tuned in to the sense of humour and are heartily shouting ‘he’s behind you’ along with everyone else. There are actors in front of you having a good time and the whole thing is quite infectious.
Of course, if a film hangs on just one joke then that’s likely to get old pretty quickly. 22 Jump Street not only keeps the sequel stuff going but actually manages to build on it throughout the movie, culminating in a brilliant over the credits crescendo. The fake trailers at the beginning of Tropic Thunder were the funniest thing about that film and 22 Jump Street closes with something similar.
Well handled as it is though, the film does not rely on this single idea for its laughs. There is a nice thread running throughout about how these guys are really too old to be passed off as college students but the comedy heart of the film is in its bromance.
Officer Schmidt and Officer Jenko’s partnership is played out across the movie like a love story and once again, while this isn’t subtle it is amusing. They make different friends, their shared priorities shift, the begin to spend time apart and they bicker. It is all very homosocial but there is definitely a strong love between these dudes and the connotations of this are fully explored. It is interesting that Jonah Hill has recently had to apologise for shouting a homophobic slur at a journalist because the gay politics in this film are actually really well played. (Incidentally, when you hear what Hill actually said, it really isn’t as bad as you might think and I certainly don’t think it is a sign of any prejudice views on his part.)
The ISWYS Test:
1. Is there a female lead?
2. Do that character’s actions deserve respect?
3. Are those actions morally sound and worthy of being widely shared?
Unfortunately the gender politics are not quite so even. This certainly isn’t a misogynistic movie but the women are pretty much reduced to the role of daughters, mothers or pretty room mates.
There are a couple of key female characters but I wouldn’t say either of them qualify as a lead.
Is this one for the kids.
22 Jump Street is a 15 which in itself is quite refreshing as they could easily have made it as a 12A, to get the wider audience, without it making too much difference to the tone of the film.
There isn’t any nudity and the violence is mild so clearly the director’s artistic integrity in their refusal to compromise on the two hundred uses of the F-word.
To summarise then, the gag rate is high although they don’t all hit home, the two male leads are engaging, the story is sufficient, it’s a film about boys but not necessarily just for boys and the credit sequence is brilliant.
There are worse ways to spend your evening, as the rest of the country now knows.
Come on Italy!