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.
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.