An exercise in offensiveness
22 Jump Street (15A)
The norm in most screwball comedies with a crime theme is to partner a smart policeman with a dumb one but in the present offering neither of the law enforcers seem to be in possession of an IQ much above room temperature.
Their mission, inflicted on them by a superior (Ice Cube) who barks at them like a human version of a rottweiler, is to infiltrate a university posing as mature students – I use the word ‘mature’ advisedly – to try and expose a drug cartel responsible for the recent death of a young girl.
Cue lots of slapstick, rude jokes, sacrilegiousness and the kind of adolescent banter that will probably be laughed at by those who enjoyed films like The Hangover or any of the Wayans Brothers ‘comedies’.
The cert says 15A but I noticed a lot of unaccompanied young teenagers at the screening I attended, making one wonder what’s the point of a classification system if it isn’t going to be enforced.
Is this the kind of film one would want the next generation to grow up evaluating as some kind of barometer of our time? The franchise was harmless enough when Johnny Depp cut his teeth on it on the small screen all those years ago but in its more recent cinematic incarnations with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum – here reprising the roles they played in 2012’s similarly-themed 21 Jump Street – the innuendoes are much more lurid.
The film also can’t seem to make up its mind if it’s trying to be a straight-up zany farce or a coded treatise on sundered brotherhood as the relationship between Hill and Tatum becomes complicated by the former getting a girlfriend (Ice Cube’s daughter, as it happens) and the latter devoting his attentions more and more to a football player (Wyatt Russell) whose tell-tale tattoo makes him a suspect in the aforementioned drug death.
Hill’s deadpan humour and Tatum’s more jock-style antics form the nexus of this latterday Laurel and Hardy formula. They trade adrenalised one-liners in a film that, with a little more imagination and some fewer nods to its predecessor, could have become a risible satire of college life. Instead it just settles for an incessant barrage of vulgarity and ridiculous set-pieces.
The last half hour is reasonably diverting as they go on a rampage across the beaches of Florida hanging from helicopters and the like but up until then it isn’t much more than an exercise in offensiveness that serves little purpose except to pander to the lowest common denominator of bad taste. (The closing credits promise us another eight sequels or so but I think I’ll pass on that particular score.)
I would have expected the film to have a higher classification and, more importantly, that this would be adhered to by those responsible for checking the ages of patrons at our multiplexes. Otherwise we’re in danger of turning them into mindless receptacles for those of low intelligence and lesser integrity.