Much like the last article, this was originally going to be a review but I decided to do something a bit different.
Comedy sequels are notoriously difficult ground. Ask someone to come up with a list of five good Hollywood examples and most people would struggle. Most often they fail as they attempt to cover old ground, forgetting that often what is funny the first time around, has already become dull by the second. The Hangover is probably the best recent example of this. Two films after the original (which despite the amount of people who may claim differently, wasn’t that good itself) the formula has now been milked past any short shelf life it may have had and left the laughs behind a long time ago.
All of this leads us nicely to 22 Jump Street, the sequel to the surprise hit 21 Jump Street, from the directorial brains of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who are quickly becoming the go to guys for quirky and hilarious movies, with them also being the wit behind The Lego Movie earlier this year. 22 Jump Street is of course one of our aforementioned comedy sequels, however it appears to be very aware of that fact. Right from the start there are constant mentions of how this time round, they have to do everything the exact same way they did the last time, because it was such a surprise success. This self referential comedy in many ways hits the marks, because much as they say themselves, this film is less funny than the original. However, it’s still very funny and easily passes the Kermodian 6 laugh test. This is the second movie this year to use this self aware approach on its sequel, with The Muppets Most Wanted doing the exact same thing with it’s opening number.
So is that the key to comedy sequels, being self-aware? While I don’t believe that every sequel has to spell itself out to the audience, I think it does point to the aforementioned key. Both of these films succeed due to their ability to not take themselves too seriously. They are both aware that their plots are ridiculous (I realise it’s kind of difficult to have a non ridiculous Muppet movie) and because of that they are able to play off that fact. Two middle aged men going back to school/college should never have worked the first time round. 22 Jump Street’s awareness of this led to them not taking the sequel too seriously, they don’t genuinely believe that people are desperate to see that formula again, but rather know that it is the characters that made their film successful. They manage to turn the formula of the film and the plot into window dressing, that they ridicule every now and then, and allow their audience to therefore sit back and enjoy watching Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum do their thing.
I can’t imagine comedy sequels are going to get much better, but they shall continue to be released as long as the public will flock towards the disapointment. However, movies like 22 Jump Street suggest that it is possible to make sequels that are good and funny and worthy of your time. It’s something that the rest of Hollywood would be wise to pay attention to.