Saturday, August 11, 2012

21 Jump Street

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

2012. Rated R, 109 minutes.

Brie Larson
Dave Franco
Ellie Kemper
DeRay Davis
Jake Johnson
Holly Robinson Peete

For lack of better terms , Jenko (Tatum) was a high school jock and Schmidt (Hill), a nerd. As adults, they drag each other through to graduation from the police academy by each helping the other with their weaknesses. As cops, they’re so inept they make Barney Fife look like Columbo. Google it, youngsters. Since immaturity is part of their problem, they are banished to the 21 Jump Street program which uses youthful officers to work undercover in local high schools. Their mission is to take down the supplier of a dangerous new drug. Raunchy, slapstick comedy ensues.

We’re used to Jonah Hill in such movies. After all, he’s returning to his roots after his Oscar nominated turn in Moneyball. He fits comfortably back into his old role as a socially awkward horndog. We find out that he completed high school as a virgin. It’s implied that he still might be, seven years later, and not by choice. Other comedy regulars such as Rob Riggle, Ice Cube and DeRay Davis help out on that front. The pleasant surprise is how funny Channing Tatum is. The movie itself puts the ball in his court by utilizing his fashion model looks for comedic fodder. He responds by having some genuinely hilarious moments as well as doing most of the heavy lifting during the action scenes.

Story-wise, 21 Jump Street is a paint-by-numbers affair with only one minor surprise. From that vantage point, it’s a movie we’ve seen multiple times and will see bunch more. However, that’s not this movie’s concern. It simply wants to make you laugh. At that it succeeds, provided you’re into crude sex and drug humor. If you’re not, steer clear. Despite its main topics, 21JS is surprisingly smart. It often lampoons action flick conventions like things exploding upon impact that shouldn’t. It even makes fun of its own premise, and by extension, that of the TV series it is based on.

Speaking of the TV series, you might also want to avoid this if you have any reverence for it. For you young’uns, the premise of using youthful looking officers to pose as high school kids is the same, but that’s about it. That was a much more serious treatment of the subject. Most notably, it launched the career of Johnny Depp and, to a lesser degree, Holly Robinson-Peete. Both have cameos in the movie. If you come here looking for something really similar to show, you’re in the wrong place. If you just want to have a laugh at a buddy-cop comedy, you’re in the right one.

MY SCORE: 7/10

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