Friday, March 16, 2012

21 Jump Street Movie Review

Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill (r) star in 21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street: When Doves Fly

Having lived (suffered?) through TV’s original 21 Jump Street in the late 80’s, I thought I knew what I was getting into with Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s updated film version. Thankfully, I was wrong... 21 Jump Street, the movie is nothing like its drama-leaning older brother. Sure it has similar pieces, but funny comes first and foremost here... and for most of the film, it works with hilarious success.

It’s important to clarify that the latest Jump Street has more than a few misses, including one of the sillier (failed-True Romance) finishes in recent memory; but not enough to discount dozens of laugh-out-loud moments, most of which had me laughing so hard that I couldn’t read the notes I had written during the screening. From co-star Jonah Hill’s "The Real Slim Shady" school intro to his eventual partnership with athletically gifted (but mentally challenged) Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street is one inappropriate joke after another.

After a brief background check, it’s on to Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) as rookie cops who... to put it nicely, aren’t all that good at police work. Dispensing advice like ‘Get your own fu*king Frisbee’ and ‘You have the right to su*k my di*k’ won’t make Officer Friendly blush with pride; but it’s sure to make him laugh. When their first arrest goes badly, Schmidt and Jenko get transferred to a new program that sends young, ‘Justin Bieber looking MFers’ undercover to local high schools to stop crime in its junior tracks. After poking gentle fun at recycled storylines, Jump Street’s Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) takes over... ordering his cops to ‘infiltrate the dealers, find the suppliers.’

Pretending to be back in high school isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially for Hill and Tatum. ‘I’m really freaked out about going back to high school,’ admits Hill’s Schmidt. Meanwhile, once popular Jenko can only ask ‘Are you two-strapping it?’ referring to how Schmidt wears his backpack. In a nice twist, our undercover heroes discover high school has changed quite a bit in seven years... Nerd is cool and cool isn’t. Things become even crazier, when Jenko flubs his secret identity... in effect, making Schmidt the cool one. From there, it’s one case of mistaken identity after another... with the results progressively funnier.

Littered with cameos, the cast of 21 Jump Street holds up its end with relative ease. Stumbles aside (i.e. Schmidt & Jenko’s commandeering of a drivers-ed car and subsequent chase/clash with a motorcycle gang) the film moves at a smooth pace, while daring you not to laugh. Hill and Tatum may not look like an ideal pairing, but their chemistry becomes almost magical as the film progresses. Ice Cube, Rob Riggle and Chris Parnell shine in smaller roles, as do Dave Franco and Brie Larson as cool high schoolers.

Tatum keeps his shirt on (way to go Channing!) much to our female audience’s chagrin, but proves he’s more than just a pretty face... adding to his comedy resume. Working alongside Hill doesn’t hurt... as the Oscar-nominated (Moneyball) star has a way of making everyone around him better (big compliment!) If you were to ask me to describe 21 Jump Street in one word, I’d have to say silly, with hilarious a close second... and dumb (thankfully) way down the list. Hill and Tatum may not ‘have time for chores’ but make sure you find time for 21 Jump Street: Your funny bone will be glad you did!

Grade: B