Review: 21 Jump Street


Hot off the back of being nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar comes Jonah Hill in this remake of the hit 1980s tv show ‘21 Jump Street’, but it is about as far removed as you could get.
It is a comedy retread of the idea of the 1987 TV show much in the same way as 2004’s Starsky & Hutch. Having no experience of actually watching the original show, which starred Johnny Depp, I immediately assumed it was just a drama about troubled teens. My logic for this is that Jump Street is supposed to sound edgy whilst 21 adds that extra needless ring, like Beverley Hills 90210. It shouldn’t be memorable, but it is.But, when you look at the premise at face value you do realise just how absurd the concept sounds in the first place and is surely prime material to be made fun of.Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play two failed cops who get enrolled in a program to bust a drugs ring at high school by getting youthful looking officers to pose as students. They must try to find who’s manufacturing a new synthetic drug (all the kids are doing it these days, the hollywood equivalent to meow meow).We start on a little background check on our main characters; Schmidt (Hill) is bullied because of his homage appearance as a bleached haired Eminem in his teens, whilst Jenko(Tatum) is the popular jock who does the bullying. Both meet a few years down the line, enrolling as police officers with differing enthusiasm. In this buddy cop relationship Jenko is the muscle and Schmidt is the brains. The character development relies on finding where they fit in, but becoming caught up in once again in a high school popularity race, which acts as an opposing force to their objective.

It takes a while for the film to find its feet humor wise with a slow beginning and mix bagged jokes centred around how unglamorous it is being a fresh out of the academy officer and some dick jokes. But it hits its stride mid-way once Schmidt and Jenko are fully immersed in their reverse high school persona’s.

Most of the film’s best humor is split between self knowing jokes that pokes fun at itself, such as it being a “revival from some canceled program from the 80s” (winky smiley) and Tatum being barely passable as a high school teen; whilst the other laughs come from comparing outdated concepts of coolness and teen stereotypes of old. I personally enjoyed the coolness of wearing my rucksack on one strap as opposed to “two-strapping” in my childhood and remember what it was like, pre-mobile, to call someone only for your mom to start dialing the phone from another line; and yes Glee seems to be the blame for this warped multifaceted constantly Internet connected teen. There are some gross out moments as well, with the highlight being Schmidt and Jenko trying to force each others gag reflex to get rid of some drugs they just consumed. I’m usually not one of these kind of cheap jokes, but it sucker-punched me in the humor gut.

The head of the drugs ring Dave Franco is not some maladjusted bully with apparent problems, but is a popular student and  environmentalist who is not concerned with getting in touch with his emotional side. Though the relationship that Hill forms with him is incredibly dubious, it does make a change from the usual generic movie bad guy and provides the stepping stone for Schmidt’s achievements for the audience to get behind.

The film’s strength is that is fully aware of the ridiculousness of the situation and constantly enjoys poking fun at itself. I enjoyed the relationship between Schmidt and Jenko and the structure of the plot moves along with ease not really drifting too much from the main objective. It is somewhat a jumble of different hit or miss comedy styles although this is somewhat expected coming from directing team Phil Lord & Chris Miller of ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’, but in comparison to the trailer the best jokes are definitely saved for the big screen and may be worth a repeat viewing.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewer: Dexter Kong (@dexterk)
Release Date UK: 20/4/2012
Directed By: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Dave Franco, Brie Larson, Ice Cube, Ellie Kemper



If you want to do your homework on the original 21 Jump Street, check out this very serious PSA they did on drugs. Yes, it is not a joke.

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