21 Jump Street
Film Review by Kam Williams
Polar Opposite Partners Infiltrate H.S. in Unlikely-Buddies Comedy
Popular jock Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) and social outcast Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) had nothing in common back when they were in high school, besides their both missing the senior prom. And even that was for very different reasons, since the former didn’t attend because of poor grades while the latter simply couldn’t find a date.
But seven years later, the pair’s paths have crossed again while attending the Police Academy. This time around, academically-challenged Greg and out-of-shape Mort bond helping each other pass the written and physical portions of the final exam.
Upon graduating, these polar opposites launch their law enforcement careers as partners, patrolling a downtown park on bicycles uneventfully until the day they fail to read a perpetrator his Miranda rights. They are called on the carpet and ordered to report to 21 Jump Street, a clandestine detective unit run out of an abandoned church with a dusty, Korean Jesus crucifix dangling over the altar.
There, short-fused Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) reassigns baby-faced Schmidt and Jenko to work undercover at Sagan High School in order to crack a drug ring disseminating deadly narcotics. The disgraced officers leap at the opportunity to make amends for the bust gone bad, unaware of how hard it will be to pass themselves off as students.
For not only do they look older, but the culture has substantially changed since they left school. So, they soon discover that, nowadays, macho misbehaving and bullying are out, while studying, drama club, and caring about the environment are in. Even being gay is considered very cool thanks to the television show “Glee.”
This upside-down reality sets the stage for the awkward scenarios which abound in 21 Jump Street, a hilarious and charming action comedy co-starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. What makes the film so endearing is the camaraderie the leads cultivate once the script is flipped, in the wake of the role reversal which has the handsome hunk suddenly relying on the goofy geek to figure out how to fit in at school.
While the movie might technically be a screen adaptation of the Eighties cop drama of the same name, this raunchy teensploit actually amounts to more of a reboot of the franchise than a remake. To its credit, the picture does pay homage to the classic TV series, as it features cameo appearances by three of the original cast members: Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise and Holly Robinson-Peete.
Nevertheless, provided you approach this laff-a-minute, slapstick adventure as a franchise overhaul rather than as an homage, you won’t be shocked by its relentlessly-irreverent brand of humor. Think Superbad meets Revenge of the Nerds!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence, drug and alcohol abuse, coarse sexuality, crude humor and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 109 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Thursday, March 15, 2012
21 Jump Street