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Written by: Sam Fragoso on March 16, 2012

March 16, 2012 | 16 comments | Featured, Old Format

21 Jump Street

It’s no understatement to say that my expectations heading into 21 Jump Street, the newest movie starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, were extremely minimal.  My preconceptions trace back to two resources. First, the film is a remake of a cheesy, overly serious 80s T.V. crime/drama that starred a young Johnny Depp. And secondly, the trailer (which I tried to avoid) was downright dismal.

So perhaps 21 Jump Street lives and thrives on the virtue of vacuous anticipation, but for what it amounts to, it’s an uproariously funny and charming action/comedy.

While occasionally alluding to the 80s program it’s based off of, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller pay great homage to classic buddy-cop films, like Beverly Hills Cop and Bad Boys, by focusing on the genuine relationship between the two officers.

In the film, Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum), two underachieving cops stuck on park duty, get transferred to a special program after failing to read a criminal (who they arrested for narcotics) their Miranda rights.

This revived program (called “21 Jump Street”) takes younger looking officers (or Ice Cube as there Captain so eloquently states “Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus looking motherfuckers”) and sticks them undercover into High schools to expose illegal activity.

Schmidt and Jenko must seek out a new synthetic drug at Sagen High. Naturally, as two 20 something officers go through the typical activities of High school life: Chemistry class, attempting to be accepted in the popular circle, and of course alcohol-fueled parties, hilarity ensues.

However, 21 Jump Street - despite subplots revolving around a gang, a love interest, and a sexually perverted teacher – is truly about the comedic and heartfelt bond that forms between Schmidt and Jenko.

The two protagonists contain a surprisingly excellent comedic rapport. Especially in the case of Tatum, who’s primarily recognized for his serous roles in Dear, John and Step-Up, truly does deadpan well here.

Hill (left) and Tatum (right). It's Prom night, time for action.

Before bending over backwards to praise this foul-mouthed endeavor, there’re some glaring and grating elements to the film. The opening 20 minutes contains some of the worst pacing in recent memory (i.e.: the two leads meet as teenagers in high school, jump 5 years in time, coincidentally spot one another at Police academy, and then catch a criminal as Police partners).

There’s more shoddy, mediocre writing within Michael Bacall’s screenplay, too. Though, it’s safe to say that albeit full of idiosyncrasies and bits that simply don’t work, 21 Jump Street’s qualities outweigh its negative components.

The film’s shtick – a sort of “go for broke” style of comedy, is compounded very nicely by a talented cast that understands the material, and a pair of directors that have a good sense of timing.

Neither a satire of the buddy-cop genre, nor a spin off of the Fox T.V. series (though containing elements of both), 21 Jump Street paves its own canvas by implementing jaunty humor with an affectionate and comedic leading relationship.

Rating: ★★★☆

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street (2012)

Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson

Director: Chris Miller, Phil Lord

Writer: Stephen J. Cannell, Patrick Hasburgh

Runtime: 109 minutes

Genre: comedy, action

Trailer 21 Jump Street


There are 16 comments for this post.

  1. Andrew on March 16, 2012 9:11 am

    I’m totally with you here Sam. I think we’re all predisposed to dislike movies of this sort because they hint at a dearth of creativity and imagination (just as the film points out in the Nick Offerman scene). So for this to turn out to be pretty funny is a surprise. That it’s even more than that is just mind-boggling. Lord, Miller, and Bacall all really knocked it out of the park here; instead of making a straightforward, grim-faced cinematic rendition of the source material, they just take the mickey out of it with regularity and relish. They know how dumb the central conceit is. So they make fun of it at every opportunity.

    Plus, Hill and Tatum work. Tatum just crushes every line he has, which is almost as much a surprise to me as the quality of humor that the directors and writers wring out of the idiotic premise.

  2. Sam Fragoso on March 16, 2012 9:33 am

    Most definitely.

    But can we agree that the film is obtaining a bit more praise than usual because everyone did have so low expectations?

  3. Andrew on March 16, 2012 11:02 am

    Maybe to a degree, sure. Nothing generates hyperbole more than a movie that far exceeds the low expectations set for it. After that though I think all of the praise it’s earning is based on its own merits. If this was a totally original idea, it’d still be a really, really strong comedy.

  4. Sam Fragoso on March 16, 2012 11:42 am

    It deserves some praise, but I still feel most writers like myself went in with terribly small expectations.

  5. Dirtywithclass on March 16, 2012 1:11 pm

    I was surprised to see the RT score for this so high. Guess this is worth checking out after all

  6. Sam Fragoso on March 16, 2012 1:30 pm

    I think you will enjoy it immensly Julian. Let me know how it works out for you.

  7. Andy Buckle on March 16, 2012 2:02 pm

    Yeah, we agree on this Sam, though I would have given it 2.5/4. I thought it was really inconsistent. A lot worked, and a lot just didn’t. You’re right about the opening. Horribly paced. I was very concerned. But once they start their undercover operation, things picked up. I loved the house party and the high speed pursuit – but I thought their trial of the drugs (montage) shouldn’t have been in the film at all. Didn’t fit – and in terms of character continuity made no sense.

    I actually went in with high-ish expectations. I liked the extended trailer (and it had most of the funny moments) and a few of my Sydney critic friends really enjoyed it. Tatum was great, Hill solid – but I liked that it had a heart, and one can’t say it isn’t funny. Just not as consistently funny as was intended. Nice write-up man.

  8. Sam Fragoso on March 17, 2012 1:51 am

    It does have a heart, which is likely why I responded so favorely.

    Tatum delivers, which is new.

  9. Amy on March 17, 2012 5:27 am

    I was really surprised by this one. I thought it would be an easy-going, entertaining watch on a Friday night and it was exactly that. There were plenty of laughs, plenty of silly bits; exactly what I needed after having a bad week! Tatum really impressed me also, I’ve not been a fan of any of his roles prior to this. Maybe he’ll continue to surprise me, I’m not banking on it though

  10. Sam Fragoso on March 17, 2012 10:27 am

    Optimism Amy, optimism!

    Tatum has talent. He did a solid job earlier this year in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire.

  11. Nate559 on March 26, 2012 7:38 pm

    I am excited to see that it got a 3 out of 4 stars. Im looking foward to see this movie! Thank you Sam for the review & the info about the 80′s TV show as well.

  12. Sam Fragoso on March 26, 2012 9:06 pm

    Definitely check it out my man Nate.

  13. Papercut on April 10, 2012 11:29 am

    I El-Oh-El at this movie! This review of the movie is so politically correct, I feel like I rode through the pearly gates on a raging unicorn to ask God the TRUE meaning of life.

  14. Sam Fragoso on April 10, 2012 2:43 pm

    Um, yeah.

  15. LAMBScores: 21 Jump Street, Jeff Who Lives at Home and Casa de Mi Padre | | Beth Stollman BlogBeth Stollman Blog on April 17, 2012 3:36 am

    [...] Duke & The MoviesSobriety Test Movie Reviews Dan the Man’s Movie ReviewsThe Movie EncyclopediaFogs’ Movie ReviewsThe Great Movie ProjectThe Most Beautiful Fraud in the WorldFilm Crazy [...]

  16. LAMBScores: 21 Jump Street, Jeff Who Lives at Home and Casa de Mi Padre | | Beth Stollman BlogBeth Stollman Blog on April 17, 2012 3:36 am

    [...] Duke & The MoviesSobriety Test Movie Reviews Dan the Man’s Movie ReviewsThe Movie EncyclopediaFogs’ Movie ReviewsThe Great Movie ProjectThe Most Beautiful Fraud in the WorldFilm Crazy [...]

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