Review: 21 Jump Street

daniel cohen goes undercover…

Plot: After disliking each other in High School, nerdy Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and athletic Jenko (Channing Tatum) become friends on the police force. After taking down their first bust, they are transferred to the 21 Jump Street division, where they will go undercover as high school students to stop a new drug from spreading.

I never thought Jonah Hill would be nominated for an Oscar, so why should it surprise me that he has good chemistry with Channing Tatum. I guess the bigger surprise is that Channing Tatum actually had good chemistry with someone in a movie. No, that was mean, and you know what, I’m going to stop picking on Tatum because he is legitimately funny in this movie, and he may have stumbled upon a new part of his career. But aside from Tatum, I totally bought into the friendship of these two guys, making for a really fun film.

This movie simply doesn’t work if you don’t like the two leads, and not only do you like them here, you love them. The nerd befriending the jock seems like a tired premise, but the writing and performances make it seem new again. We all know Jonah Hill can be funny, and he gives us what we’d expect, but Tatum was the real shocker: He actually had brilliant comic timing. There’s one scene in particular when he asks his chemistry teacher if he can go to the bathroom that really got me going. Now it’s entirely possible he was only funny because he was just being Channing Tatum. But this time we were laughing with him, not at him. Whatever the case may be, the actors got you invested wholeheartedly in their friendship.

While the genre of 21 Jump Street is clearly comedy, it definitely has an action movie feel to it at times. It’s very much like last summer’s 30 Minutes or Less, a film I was probably overly favorable to, as this one was much better. It’s definitely the best buddy cop comedy in a long time, but that’s not saying much. What I love about this film is they play off generic action movie clichés, but give their own unique spin to them. There’s a long running joke involving explosions that was really clever. And while I never laughed my ass off in this movie, I got consistent chuckles all the way through. And I didn’t even mind the lack of LOL moments because I actually found myself invested in the plot.

While I love how the dynamics of high school are played into the story, there are some elements to it that I just couldn’t buy into. So Schmidt and Jenko graduated high school in 2005, and Jenko was the big popular jock with the letterman jacket. So flash forward seven years later, and everything is completely different. It’s not the jocks who are necessarily popular anymore, and Jenko is branded a loser when he returns. While I think this is a clever observation on today’s high schools, I don’t really buy such a drastic change from 2005 to 2012. Was it really that different? The 2005 high school version in the beginning seemed like a page from the 80’s days. I do appreciate the clever twists this results in throughout the film though.

While there aren’t that many notable performances other than Hill and Tatum, everyone else is pretty solid. I especially like the small cameo from Nick Offerman (Parks & Rec). But the real stand-out of the supporting characters was Ice Cube as Captain Dickson, head of the 21 Jump Street program. He plays the cliché angry police captain, but he’s hysterical, and he even makes reference that he’s a cliché. One of the best parts about this movie in general is how they acknowledge all the clichés and stereotypes that go on.

Now unfortunately, there are a few things that hinder this film from being great that I can’t let slip by. First off, the second act really drags. We all know the friendship between Schmidt and Jenko is going to falter somewhere in this film, and it’s dragged out to the point of exhaustion…just get on with it already!

[Cameo spoiler this paragraph] But what really pissed me off at the end was the forced cameo of Johnny Depp. Yes, Depp was on 21 Jump Street. I get it. It was completely random, it added nothing, and Depp didn’t even look like he wanted to be there. This was a complete waste of five minutes.

But aside from some slow pacing, a worthless cameo, and a completely unneeded shock gag at the end, I had a blast with this film. Hill and Tatum are great together, and if you’ve ever been one of those guys who thinks Tatum is douchey,he’s extremely likable in this movie. And like all movies these days, they of course open it up for a sequel. But this is a sequel I actually wouldn’t mind seeing. I’d definitely go back for another adventure with these guys. I wonder if they have the balls to call it 22nd Jump Street?

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

3 COMMENTS

  1. oh please – whining about the Depp cameo? Really? How about Peter Deluis’s, or Holly Robinson’s? {Hint: They’re called “cameos” for a reason}

    This was a funny and really really good flick – the fact that Depp & Co, from the original series showed up is IMO testament to how good the script was – so unbunch yer panties already.

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