21 Jump Street: Movie Review
About twenty minutes into Chris Miller and Phil Lord‘s hilarious big screen adaptation of 21 Jump Street, police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) confuse their undercover roles. Handsome jock Jenko is sent to advanced chemistry, and schlubby Schmidt must try to impress the hipsters in drama. Even without this twist, 21 Jump Street would have easily been the funniest buddy/cop/high school movie hybrid out there, full of great cast chemistry and just enough self-awareness of its own stupidity. But this role reversal sparks a genuinely sweet story of acceptance and friendship that keeps you watching for more than just the penis jokes and (anti-) explosions.
Inspired by the 80s television series of the same name (which followed cops undercover at high schools, but took itself much more seriously and ended every episode with a preachy moral), the movie follows Schmidt and Jenko as they flunk out of life as regular patrolmen, and are sent to an undercover program being revived from the 80s.
Their deadpan captain (Nick Offerman) tells them: the guys in charge of coming up with new programs don’t have any creativity, and just recycle old ideas and hope people are too stupid to notice.
They’re sent to an affluent high school to bust a drug ring. (As their new captain [Ice Cube] says, the kids are white, “so people actually give a shit.”) Once inside, Jenko is shocked to find that his bullying and good looks no longer command the admiration of today’s sensitive teens; and Schmidt is stunned to have a second chance to actually be a cool kid. And all that starts to get in the way of actually cracking the case, which comes to a head (of course) on Prom Night.
Back in 2009, Jonah Hill described his vision for the film as an “R-rated, insane, Bad-Boys-meets-John Hughes-type movie,” which is actually a damn good description of the final product.
Hill and Tatum anchor the film with a signature Jonah Hill bromance; but Tatum himself proves that he can improv and freak out hysterically with the best of them. The movie picks its action sequences carefully, but when it does, the car chases, gun battles, and explosions are only heightened by the absurd gags and unexpected gruesomeness thrown in.
Did you see 21 Jump Street? What did you think?