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21 Jump Street - Movie Review
By Anthony Archis - March 16, 2012

21 Jump Street with Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum
21 Jump Street with Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum
 
Ice Cube, Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street
Ice Cube, Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street
 
Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street
Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street
 
Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street
Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street
21 Jump Street is the latest television series to be adapted into a major motion picture with A-list stars in the leading roles. When you see a promotional trailer advertising a movie adapted from a 1980s television show, if you're anything like me, you roll your eyes and sigh. Your thoughts inevitably drift to lamenting the lack of inspired ideas on film these days. So we come to 21 Jump Street, a reimagining of the classic television show from the late 1980s in which police officers pose as high school students to embed themselves into adolescent culture as a means of solving crime. In this film reincarnation of 21 Jump Street starring Channing Tatum and recent Oscar nominee Jonah Hill, I was able to put aside my inclination to bemoan the lack of originality in Hollywood and allowed myself to be entertained. Sometimes remakes can actually work out and offer some cinematic merit.

Jenko (played by Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (played by Johan Hill) make an unlikely duo that ran in different cliques in their own respective high school days. Jenko was the typical dumb jock, while Schmidt was the dopey nerd (shocker, I know!). Both characters end up applying for the police exam and after realizing that they need each other, decide to help one another out and a genuine friendship is born. After a mishap on their park detail, Jenko and Schmidt are sent to an old church located on 21 Jump Street to report to Captain Dickson (played by Ice Cube) for a new assignment. Due to their youthful appearances, Jenko and Schmidt are to pose as high school students to uncover and bring down the distribution of a new synthetic drug that has become popular with the youth. The drug in question, H.F.S. (an acronym that contains some course language) is shown to have harmful effects resulting in some deaths. Needless to say, as students both Jenko and Schmidt must adjust to the latest social wrangling of high school culture. Imagine having to navigate your way through high school politics and social hierarchy after having left that behind years prior.

Growing up, I was aware of the television show 21 Jump Street, but never saw enough of it to evaluate the comparison between past and present. The film 21 Jump Street follows the premise of the television series, but it is the script and the performances of the film’s two lead actors that make 21 Jump Street, the movie, a worthy comedy. 21 Jump Street is not afraid to take chances regarding humor, as political correctness is left at the door. The movie even pokes fun at itself and other movies of a similar ilk. One of the scenes that stood out in 21 Jump Street was Captain Dickson taking a shot at the very premise of Hollywood’s default habit of remaking 1980s television fare for film. Subject matter in 21 Jump Street that could make some viewers uneasy is played for laughs, managing to strengthen the overall subject matter in the film.

With a movie like 21 Jump Street, which amounts to a buddy-cop movie for the 2010s, the collective performances of the lead actors can make or break the movie. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill not only have great comedic timing, but manage to cultivate excellent on-screen chemistry together. From Jenko and Schmidt’s contrasting beginnings in high school to their activities as partnered police officers, there is a natural feel to the dynamic between the two where it does not seem contrived. The supporting cast with Rob Riggle and Chris Parnell as teachers also manages to pull their weight in a comedy that never seems to lose momentum, as so many do, at the half way mark.

Adding to the movie’s strength, 21 Jump Street is more than a comedy; its action sequences seamlessly provide entertaining moments that go hand in hand with the laughs.

Granted, 21 Jump Street is a formula buddy comedy that plays by the book with little originality. The movie’s formulaic plot is somewhat forgivable as it has specific stereotypical parameters to work within: high school, undercover police work and unlikely partners. But the movie 21 Jump Street is not going for any awards. This movie is purely about entertainment. All of the key elements to an enjoyable popcorn movie are present. However, if you are the sort to be sensitive to off-color content, you may be better served skipping 21 Jump Street the movie and opting for reruns of the television series starring Johnny Depp and Holly Robinson Peete.

If you like action and don’t mind some blue material, 21 Jump Street is worth watching. Fans of the decades-old television series can go for nostalgia’s sake as there are enough nods to the original show that are rather clever, as opposed to being awkward and forced.

If there’s one thing that can be said about 21 Jump Street, it provides hope that some of these remakes are not exercises in futility. Just as in high school, a preconceived notion is not always the right way to approach a topic.

“21 Jump Street” starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Brie Larson & Rob Riggle
Rated R. Runtime 109 min. Theatrical release 3/16/2012.
PR.com Rating: B+


21 Jump Street - Movie Review


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