21 Jump Street – Review

Film: 21 Jump Street (2012)

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Ice Cube, Rob Riggle

Directed by: Phil Lord and Chris Miller 

Produced by: Stephen J. Cannell, Neal H. Moritz

Written by: Michael Bacall, Jonah Hill

Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh

Running Time: 109 minutes

Rating: R

I’ll admit that when I first saw previews for 21 Jump Street, I didn’t think much of it and basically dismissed it. Then, however, I heard some very positive word-of-mouth about how explosively funny it apparently was, and its nice Rotten Tomatoes score confirmed this buzz and thus made me change my stance.

21 Jump Street is based on a 1980s TV series. The film’s plot sees a classic pairing of a smart but geeky and weak cop (Jonah Hill) and his strong but dim partner (Channing Tatum). The two had gone to high school together, where Schmidt (Hill) was picked on and Jenko (Tatum) was a popular jock who didn’t exactly excel academically. When the two meet up at the police academy, they become friends, with each one helping the other in his area of weakness.

After they graduate and are partners, they mess up epically when trying to arrest several men for drug use (Schmidt is overpowered and Jenko catches a man but doesn’t properly recite the Miranda rights, allowing the man to go free). That lands them in a loser specialty division on 21 Jump Street. There, they meet the bombastic, short-tempered Captain Dickson (a hilarious Ice Cube), who assigns them to go undercover as high school students to uncover the dealers and suppliers in a drug operation. When Jenko mixes up their identities, he gets stuck in some nerd-level classes while Schmidt ends up with the popular crowd and actually befriends one of the dealers (Dave Franco, who looks and speaks just like his brother, James) and falls for his friend, Molly (Brie Larson). All the while, Schmidt and Jenko must remain focused on their objective.

21 Jump Street follows many of the conventional practices of a buddy-cop action comedy, but what makes it work is that it knows that. In many ways, it parodies this genre of film and television, but does so in a more subtle way than straight parodies like the Scary Movie series. For instance, Captain Dickson meets the stereotypes of an angry, black police captain, and he explicitly acknowledges that almost as soon as we meet him, loosely poking fun at this overused cliche. There is another scene where Schmidt and Jenko are in a car chase and there are several instances where they expect a huge explosion after a collision, but it doesn’t happen. They look at each other in bewilderment and express their surprise at the lack of an explosion. The movie is playing with the audience, telling us that we should expect an explosion like we would get in any standard action flick.

Thus, 21 Jump Street is smarter than most action comedies because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it also walks that line in not being a straight-up parody, providing us with a nevertheless entertaining story. Hill and Tatum make for a classic brains-and-brawn comedic pair, and while I would not quite call myself an Ice Cube fan, he was hysterical as the constantly-pissed-off Captain Dickson. There were also some creative and accordingly hilarious scenes where Schmidt and Jenko are forced to take the synthetic drug in question. The film then broke down each of the drug’s several stages to hilarious effect. Things did become a little over-the-top towards the end of the film (all I’ll say is that a male appendage was involved), but for the most part, if 21 Jump Street ever crossed the line in its ridiculousness, it let us know that it was aware of this.

A few weeks ago I never would have imagined that I would see this film and enjoy it, but alas, here I stand praising it for the most part. It wasn’t an earth-shattering experience by any means, but it was never meant to be and it was actually smarter than most buddy comedies. To top it all off, there was even a stunningly hilarious actor cameo (I’ll let you see that for yourself; if you know anything about the original TV series, you might be able to guess who this was). Raunchy, intelligent, and fun, 21 Jump Street will do more than enough to satisfy people looking for some laughs.

Tommy D’s Score:





3.25/4 Tommy Ds

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About Tommy D

Clemson and UGA alum with a market research job in LA. And I kind of like movies.

Posted on April 9, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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