In 1987 when the original 21 Jump Street was first brought to television we received a great procedural police drama series with young and upcoming stars. In 2012, we revisit the franchise but this time with crude comedy. On the surface, the remake of 21 Jump Street seems like the most ludicrous idea proposed by Hollywood in some time. However, with Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall writing we get a fresh take or an old property. Let’s get the most important part of this review out of the way: Is 21 Jump Street actually funny? I am happy to say, it’s absolutely hilarious. So now that we have the basics established let’s talk story. The premise is simple and is treated as such. Two cops, who are worthless upon first glance, are assigned to work undercover at a local high school to bust a drug ring. Nothing too complicated, just straight to the point. I enjoy movies that don’t bother with unnecessary exposition and know what they are and stay within that context.
Meeting the main characters Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) and establishing how they get to Jump Street takes about 15 minutes. This part of the movie zips by so fast that you realize early that the directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, have an agenda and no time for deviation. This part feels very rushed, but frankly you don’t care because you are waiting for the comedic high school scenes anyway. However, once Hill and Tatum take on their high school identities we really get to see the two shine. I am no fan of Tatum’s previous work but I have to admit he is pretty great here. He works well as the handsome idiot with a heart of gold. Jonah Hill has had great success with his roles in arguably similar movies like Superbad and he doesn’t disappoint here either. Hill does an exceptional job as the awkward-cool-smart-ass teenage persona. Overall the chemistry between the two stars is genuine and makes you want to see more of their adventures.
The movie has a nice overarching message about high school and the day to day nonsense that is teenage life. It handles delivering this message well without beating you over the head with the obvious. The movie is very silly, but in a good way, yet it isn’t mindless. Tatum and Hill do well addressing high school stereotypes while at the same time showing the changes that have occurred since their time in high school. Some of the funnier scenes happen when the two characters try to pigeon hole other students into their perceived high school stereotypes.
Like I said earlier, the movie is hilarious. Once Hill and Tatum make it to school they are surrounded by a whole host of characters. The awkwardness and crudeness of the movie works much like it did in Superbad. The level of in your face comedy harkens back to the days of Animal House, Bachelor Party, and the Revenge of the Nerds series, which is never a bad thing. All in all, I think this is the first good mainstream movie of the year. Go see 21 Jump Street you won’t regret it.
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