21 Jump Street (2012)

Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Written by Michael Bacall

The beauty of the advance screening is that you don’t have to pay the ridiculous box office prices to be able to see a movie you may or may not have otherwise spent the money to see. For 21 Jump Street, I was in such a situation having had fixed feelings about the film based on the personnel and trailer, which made it seem like a fairly idiotic and immature film. Jonah Hill has been a favorite of mine since Superbad, though I understand he isn’t everybody’s. Channing Tatum on the other hand is the one that really had me dreading the possibilities of this film. As was voiced in my review of an earlier 2012 film, The Vow, he is just so wooden and emotionless as an actor. And also, how are they taking a Johnny Depp television program from the late 80s and making it into a comedy buddy movie?

Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) couldn’t be further from each other in high school. Jenko was the popular jock and Schmidt was the invisible nerd type with braces and a strange obsession with rapper Eminem. So when their paths cross at the Police Academy, they strike up an unlikely friendship, Jenko benefiting from Schmidt’s smarts and Schmidt benefiting from Jenko’s physical prowess. But when they bumble their way through their first arrest, they are relegated to the 21 Jump Street program, where they must infiltrate a high school, posing as students, to bring down the supplier of a new synthetic drug which has already claimed one kids life. But when they return to high school, they find things have changed in terms of what is popular.

From the very start I must say that I was surprised by the life and humor that came out of Channing Tatum. If you read through my thoughts on The Vow I expressed my dislike of Tatum as an actor, but wanted to say I have nothing against the man, some people just aren’t cut out to be actors, but this go around he seems to fill the role almost naturally. Now before going overboard I don’t want to build up the performance more than it needs to be, just that I was pleasantly surprised by it. I think the greatest compliment for a comedic role is that it looks like they are having fun in the film, and that can be said of both Tatum and Hill, which really makes for a fun ride.

The film really makes its laughs by playing against the stereotype. The popular kids are no longer the block headed jocks like Jenko was, but instead the smart, environmentally conscious, PC kids who are shoe-ins to Berkeley, the star of the drama club, and the openly gay African American. As Jenko puts it, the Glee influence ruined all that he knew of the high school hierarchy. But what makes the film work by using these characters is when Jenko mistakenly swaps the identities of he and Schmidt’s undercover names, setting him off to be the smart one taking AP Chemistry and Schmidt being the dumber jock type. The set-up is not groundbreaking, but it does allow for some really funny situations.

I can’t remember the last time I laughed this hard in movie theater, though I am sure it was not as long ago as memory serves. And maybe it wouldn’t hold up a second time, but the supporting roles brilliantly filled by the likes of Ellie Kemper, Jake Johnson, Nick Offerman, Ice Cube and even Dave Franco (younger brother of James) and Brie Larson, who play the other high school students. Any good comedy seems to always be bolstered by a strong supporting cast. It is also very much of its kind, and what I mean by that is that it is idiotic and immature, but I am the demographic for that type of comedy being a 23 year old male. It does its thing fairly well, but I’m not sure it would ever be enough to convert those who despise this style of comedy. I just hope more people enter with an open mind to enjoy a pretty darn funny movie.

*** – Very Good

 

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

2 comments

  • I saw this at a screening as well. I am of the generation that watched the TV when I was 20 to 24 y/o female. I am now 44. I love to go to movies that have humor but the drugs, alcohol & language were too much.
    I knew the show premise very well. So I was really disappointed with the jokes that were drug related, sex related. In the tv show, the undercover cop never bought alcohol & drugs for minors. It glamorized the use of drugs & alcohol among minors. Which is the opposite of the show. The amount of swearing was so over the top. I convinced that it had more swearing then all the Die Hard movies combined. (I love the Diehard movies). The shot-off penis scene was just plain nasty.

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  • I saw this last night and really enjoyed it too. And like you, I was completely surprised with Tatum. I didn't even bother seeing The Vow (my favourite newspaper said it was the worst film ever made), and I didn't like his performance in Haywire (well, I just didn't like Haywire at all). It was a great Friday night film. My boyfriend loved it, and but my friend we went with didn't enjoy it at all. I'm not sure it would have the same effect if I watched it again, but it was the perfect film to unwind to and laugh at after a hard day. Great review!

    Like

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