21 Jump Street (2012)

Despite never having really got along in high school, Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) decide to pool their resources in order to graduate from police academy. Disappointed by the lack of car chases on their first patrol, they seize the opportunity to take on a drug syndicate dealing in a nearby park, but fail miserably to score a conviction when Jenko forgets to read the Miranda rights. Reassigned to the newly reformed 21 Jump Street program as undercover high school students, Jenko and Schmidt use their past experiences to compliment their secret identities as they look to infiltrate the school’s drug ring and sniff out the supplier. With times having changed, however, and a mishap leaving them with the wrong false identities, they find that they are less equipped than first anticipated.

It’s easy to feel cynical about 21 Jump Street, a movie which milks a long-cancelled television show for ideas rather than coming up with anything on its own. It turns out you’re not alone, as the programs commanding officer (played angrily by Ice Cube) mocks Hollywood the police force’s blatant lack of originality almost from the get-go. It sets the scene beautifully as a constant stream of homages pay respect to the original series while subverting the show’s well-worn tropes in the process; not just that, in fact, but just about every high school movie convention going. Screenwriters Hill and Michael Bacall strike the perfect balance, the plot demanding that each character plays to stereotype as they send a clearly loved show up with love and respect but not without having their fun with it first.

While from the film’s set-up it seems pretty self-evident which tack the film will inevitably take, there is enough ingenuity along the way to throw the narrative occasionally off course, complimenting the gross out comedy and excruciating awkwardness with intelligence and wit. An inspired twist sees Jenko and Schmidt lumbered with the wrong undercover identities, leaving Hill’s insecure intellectual running track and forced to star in the school play, while Tatum’s dim athlete struggles with chemistry and band practice. The innovation doesn’t end there, however, with directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs) also playing up the differences between teenage culture in 2005 and 2012 so that Hill’s geek-chic wins him a place among the revised hierarchy while Tatum gets a taste of his own medicine as his anarchic attitude clashes with a more responsible breed of teenager.

The narrative is of course ridiculous, but rather than shy away from it (as the television show once did) the filmmakers choose instead to celebrate the premise’s inherent stupidity. With a desired tone so dependant on two likeably ludicrous leads, then, it might seem somewhat self-defeating to have cast Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as the not-so dynamic duo; the former is an often hateful member of the Judd Apatow fraternity while the latter is often less watchable than a road-side traffic accident. Together, however, they are a remarkably successful comedy pairing. They play off of one another nicely, as Tatum displays a comic timing and easy physicality conspicuously absent from his earlier assaults on the genre – or any other for that matter.

There are still issues, however, not least the film’s action sequences’ reliance on sight gags over any actual thrills; a last reel limousine chase in particular only serves to drag out the film’s finale, the stunt itself saved only by the pay-off of a running joke in which nothing the officers shoot ever seems to explode. Also under-realised are a number of the supporting characters, many of whom practically beg for more screen time, effortlessly stealing the few scenes that they are actually in. Ellie Kemper (previously sidelined in Get Him To The Greek and Bridesmaids) and 30 Rock‘s Chris Parnell are an absolute joy as a horny Chemistry teacher and bumbling dramatist respectively, while Dave Franco is given little more to do than stand in the background and occasionally snivel.

That said, the plusses definitely outweigh the negatives in what is ultimately a charming and intelligent comedy propped up by two surprisingly accomplished performances (and a cameo that positively sings). In a month so far populated with the likes of One for the Money, This Means War and Wanderlust, it wouldn’t have taken much for 21 Jump Street succeed; not that this hasn’t stopped all involved from producing one of the most genuinely entertaining action-comedies of recent years.


About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to 21 Jump Street (2012)

  1. Pingback: March 2012 – Fire all things that go bang! « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: Popcorn Addict’s 2012: Best On-screen Chemistry « popcornaddict

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: