Starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street is the not-so-remake of the 1980’s television show that is a stark contrast to its gritty predecessor. The film opens up with the two main characters in high school with Hill cast as the stereotypical loser (Schmidt), consistently ridiculed by “cool” kids like Tatum (Jenko). Seven years later, the two find each other training in the same police academy, where Schmidt’s brains and Jenko’s athleticism brings them together as allies and eventually close friends. After graduating from the academy, they become partners and after botching their first arrest, they are transferred to 21 Jump Street, a division where young-looking officers are put in high schools to investigate undercover missions. Their first mission is to unearth more information about a new synthetic drug distributed inside a local high school, to infiltrate the dealers, and to find the drug’s source. Initially, Schmidt and Jenko enter high school, eager to prove themselves as cops. But as their return to school nears, Jenko looks forward to reliving his high school glory days while poor Schmidt worries about re-enacting the same torture he experienced during his first go round.
To their surprise and in a comedic comeuppance, Schmidt ends up becoming part of the popular crowd (led by Dave Franco, younger brother of James) and falling for his co-star in the school play (Brie Larson), while Jenko finds common ground with the chemistry nerds. The hilarious antics and dirty humor are non-stop throughout the film, especially when the brothers in blue unintentionally try the drug on their first day of school. Even more surprising perhaps is the fact that Hill and Tatum play perfectly off each other as polar opposites in terms of their personality and their physicality. But the foibles certainly share the same levels of immaturity and goofy humor, highlighted throughout the film and managed to keep us rollicking with laughter for most of the movie. Additionally, the film has a fantastic comedic supporting cast led by character actors Rob Riggle, Ellie Kemper, and Chris Parnell, all cast as part of the school’s staff, and Ice Cube playing the tightly wound police captain of the 21 Jump Street division.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this comedy is the self-mockery, of the characters and their respective stereotypes, and of cinema itself. In one car chase scene, Schmidt shoots a truck labeled “flammable” and as the action music reaches a climax and the truck doesn’t explode, Schmidt comments in surprise since it always works in the movies- a tongue in cheek reference to the sometimes ridiculousness of Tinseltown. Heading in, we weren’t sure what to expect from this movie, since it’s a remake (in name only), but the comedy delivers and the distinction between the film and the original series allows the film to thrive on its own, rather than being merely a shadowy parody of the original.
“21 Jump Street” is rated R, starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, has a runtime of 109 minutes, and is released in theaters everywhere Friday, March 16th.
- Terry Ballou