Is there any genre quite as enjoyably predictable as the buddy cop movie?
Two officers –one straitlaced, the other a maverick – forced to team up, only to form, despite, or perhaps because of their differences, an abiding friendship. It’s The Odd Couple with armaments.
Lethal Weapon invented the formula; Rush Hour threw in race relations; The Other Guys affectionately parodied it; The Heat made the cops female. It’s telling, however, that one of the characters in Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – the best example from recent years – was called Gay Perry, and, who, in the name of the mission, sucked face with Robert Downey Jr.’s long-suffering PI.
After all, beneath all the banter and the gunplay, at the core of the genre has always been the bromance. In the case of 22 Jump Street, though, takes the homoeroticism to the logical next step: a committed relationship, Well, not literally so, though the film has plenty of fun with the term “partners”.
Following their high-school shenanigans in 21 Jump Street and the disastrous docklands shootout that opens this installment – suffice to say, you’re unlikely to want sashimi for a while – Jenko and Schmidt are sent back undercover as college students under very similar circumstances to the first film.
As Nick Offerman’s wry encouragement to do “exactly the same thing” demonstrates, 22 Jump Street has a vein of ironic self-awareness running through it. A late car chase prompts the duo to take whichever route seems likely to be less expensive, having been informed that the “department” is running out of money.
While in most films this constant commentary would lend a sense of bemused detachment, these comedic veins always return to the heart of 22 Jump Street: the relationship between Jenko and Schmidt. The ever-likeable Channing Tatum has made a career of playing the amiable lunk-head while Hill lightly underplays the uptight, clingy one of the pair.
They are, in short, like a stereotypical gay couple, and the sequel shows them progressing from the high-school sweetheart stage of their relationship to the trials and temptations of college.
On the search for a local drug dealer, Jenko and Schmidt find themselves drawn down different paths: Jenko towards football and blonde-maned soul-mate Zook (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt); Schmidt towards the artsy crowd. The use of split-screen in several action sequences – particularly a Ritalin-inspired raid on a frathouse – underscores the differences between them: Jenko is a man of action and perfect physical specimen; Schmidt is… not.
As well as shooting for the easy laughs – the anals of history, anyone? – but the film also has a lot of heart. And dicks, don’t forget dicks. The bizarre involvement of Peter Stormare aside – an unpaid tax bill, perhaps? – 22 Jump Street is never excessive for it’s own sake. Every joke, no matter how throwaway, has a payoff, and, if the sequel never quite transcends the original, it’s a more than adequate follow-up.
There’s even one of the most notable showdowns in recent years, somewhat ruined by the trailer campaign, best described as the make-out/feminist fistfight.
Crassly clever and very funny, it’s hard to imagine a third part to the Jump Street trilogy. The extended credits allude to a series of fictional sequels and spinoffs – chef school! air-force academy! Seth Rogen! We can only hope that this otherwise enlightened series doesn’t fall victim to its own joke.