21 JUMP STREET Review

The first film of the year that I was genuinely excited to see, "21 Jump Street" delivers on every level that I expected it to and in most ways even more so. I am too young to really know anything of the original series except for the fact it starred a pre-superstar Johnny Depp. I had no idea of the tone of the series and didn't really care to investigate if I'm being honest. By the time the first trailer appeared online I was already so excited to see the film I forgot that it was another movie based on an old TV show that the studios were re-hashing to make money off familiar titles. Now, I generally don't have a problem with this as I rather enjoyed the "Charlie's Angels" movies and Michael Mann refashioned "Miami Vice" into a darker, grittier film than anything the TV show ever hinted at. Despite not being overly familiar with the original shows these films were based on I went into them with a positive outlook and was greatly rewarded for the most part. The same can be said with "21 Jump Street". Not only does it feature a skinny Jonah Hill who consistently kills every scene he's in but it also features a breakout role for Channing Tatum. In my eyes Tatum has always been the guy the girls love and the guys can't stand because he has no shame in making chick flicks, but this will turn his career around and make him the marquee star we always knew he'd be. That being said, this is not only a great and hilarious comedy but it features the best odd couple in comedy we've seen in a good while.

Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) is always yelling at his
immature officers.
The premise is so fun from the beginning we buy into the ridiculousness of it and are willing to come along for the ride because of the mismatched duo that is Tatum and Hill who turn out to be the best part of the film. The first fifteen minutes or so play like an extended trailer. Cutting swiftly from joke to joke that sets up our heroes as the high schoolers they were and the stereotypes they so comfortably fit into. While Tatum is the typical dumb jock and Hill the self conscious, smart guy the film uses these strengths and weaknesses to draw the two closer together when they show up seven years after graduation to become police officers. In the aftermath of their park duty bust the boys fail to read the culprit their miranda rights and are therefore are sentenced to a program down on 21 jump street that requires their youthful immaturity. Cast as the perfectly stereotyped angry black captain Ice Cube steals every scene he graces with his dirty mouth and quick wit. The plot is simple in that Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are assigned to a local high school that seems to be the source of a new drug. They have to infiltrate the dealers and locate the supplier. Of course, nothing could be so easy, but the pure outlandish quality of the plot is what allows "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs" directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller to incorporate their visually inspired jokes that allow the pace of the film to move swiftly along, never stopping long enough for us to catch our breath between laughs.

Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are
proud to officially be on the force.
What is great about the film besides the flawless rapport between Tatum and Hill is the way in which the script handles the self-awareness factor. "21 Jump Street" clearly knows what it is and has no qualms with making that known. When the script takes that classic popular prototype and flips it on its head by instituting Jenko in a world where the cool kids no longer are the ones that play organized sports or try to look as if they don't care but instead are the liberal tree-huggers who in all actuality make their biggest contribution to society by recycling he becomes confused. Tatum plays the idiotic Jenko with such earnest emotion though that we feel we have to act in his defense when Schmidt begins to get in too deep because he was born ten years too late. He fits in perfectly in this world where a few years earlier he was the butt of everyone's joke. This kind of commentary on the quirky, less classic high school culture makes Jenko and Schmidt feel a little more 1995 rather than 2005 at times, the point is made and despite the pay off for some of these jokes that we can see coming from a mile away doesn't even hurt because they work and that pay off is so good we forgive the standard way the story plays out because of the jokes the cast have built around it.

Jenko and Schmidt meet Eric (Dave Franco) for the first time
to purchase some of the suspected drugs.
"21 Jump Street" is an outlandish and highly entertaining comedy that really wasn't being asked for or demanded in any way. Those that were fans of the show will probably not look kindly upon the change in tone and the vulgar turns this has so easily seemed to take from its source material, but like I said, is there an ardent fan base out there somewhere that was begging for a movie adaptation of their favorite show? Probably not, but the movie we have been given because of that has turned out to be what certainly sets a high bar for R-rated comedies in 2012. Helping greatly is the fantastic supporting cast that besides the aforementioned Ice Cube also features the likes of James Franco's younger brother Dave who perfectly personifies the cool swag of the social media generation. Rob Riggle turns in another great supporting role that lends his comic timing to the more exaggerated humor that the directors lean toward. It doesn't hurt that the likes of Ellie Kemper, Chris Parnell, and Nick Offerman show up in what are essentially cameos either to drop their sense of humor into the mix. Their is also one particular cameo that should let any audience member,  no matter their past association with the show or lack thereof, that this shouldn't be taken too seriously but instead should simply be enjoyed for the consistent laughs and great time it provides at the movies.