21 Jump Street
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Ice Cube, Rob Riggle
Directed By: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
There can’t be many television shows left to be adapted into big-budget Hollywood reboots can there? Maybe I’m speaking too soon. I was absolutely dreading the Hollywood reboot of the famed Johnny Deep teen cop-drama “21 Jump Street” especially since it starred Channing Tatum, who to me had the acting range of a cardboard box and Jonah Hill, who became weirdly skinny and I’d figure would suffer from Seth Rogen‘s problem in “Observe and Report.”
Well, well how surprised was I to walk out of “21 Jump Street” and thoroughly enjoy it. Not following in the footsteps in the sorta funny but not totally funny “Starsky and Hutch” but more in the style of the self-aware comedy of characters stuck in a different time period dealing with modern day like “The Brady Bunch Movie.” “21 Jump Street” succeeds on the chemistry of it’s two leads and well-written script that never goes overkill with it’s premise. The story is that in High School Jenko (Channing Tatum) was the typical jock/quarterback/big man on campus, while Schmidt (Jonah Hill) was the nerdy, outcast who had braces and bleach blonde Eminem hair. Being on complete opposite sides of the social spectrum, the duo reunite in the Police Academy and find a common ground when Schmidt is great at academics but needs help with the Physical training, while Jenko is in great physical shape but can’t past the exams. They become best friends and now cops/partners but after a botched arrest are sent to 21 Jump Street to go undercover as high school students to find the supplier of a new synthetic drug and caused a student to overdose and die, which is a major issue until I realized multiple characters took the drug and were perfectly fine afterwards.
The movie is nowhere near as bad as it could be, and actually excels at being a buddy cop action/comedy movie with the right amount of heart from its two leads. Surprisingly, the chemistry and likablity of the relationship between the two leads is the best reason to see the movie. The movie also takes a nice twist on the buddy cop formula and instead of having two polar opposite fish-out-of-water characters learn to work through their differences, the script have them already as best friends who want to prove to themselves and other people that they aren’t screw-ups. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are both well cast in their roles and make fun of their typical movie personas. The movie also is a nice examination of modern day high school which has seemingly changed in the era of Facebook and Glee, where as Jenko and Schmidt had high school that’s traditionally remembered as being full of bullies and popular kids, the new generation of kids are more dangerous than ever, more conscious, unpredictable, and self-absorbed than ever before, the jungle of High School is now run by an entirely different breed of wild animals. Notice how Schmidt’s character is a nerd growing up, and is scared of failure but is heavily nurtured and loved by his parents, while the most popular kid/head drug dealer, Eric (Dave Franco) played with ample smugness has no parental guidance or authority and is full of self-confidence and entitlement. But, maybe I’m thinking too much into it.
Overall the movie doesn’t really add much to the now common satirical comedy of Buddy cop action movies. What I thought 2010’s “The Other Guys” did brilliantly was be a good buddy exaggerated version of the buddy cop movie without going overboard. “21 Jump Street” comes close to the same level and especially excels when in the high school scenes and accidentally have the two leads switch characters and essentially switch high school personas (Tatum hangs with the nerds, Hill hangs with the popular kids) however both of these characters had their own personal struggles in High School. The character of Schmidt wasn’t good with girls and was an outcast and got shut down for prom, while Jenko was the most popular kid but didn’t get to attend prom as prom king due to poor grades. Schmidt gets his redemption in the form of the love interest, Molly played with a surprising amount of sweetness and intelligence by Brie Larson. While Jenko takes a backseat and although he learns to appreciate nerds I never thought he got to have his moment in the sun, especially since the movie showed his popularity ruined his senior prom, and while the Jonah Hill-Brie Larson romance is extremely enjoyable although sometimes a tad creepy, Jenko’s character is given a love interest in the form of the the bubbly Ellie Kemper that never goes anywhere besides a few awkward scenes as his chemistry teacher. Many hilarious actors in supporting roles feel like they appear for a split second and don’t even extend the full potential of their comedic talents. Nick Offerman as a police chief, Jake Johnson as a principal, Chris Parnell as an eccentric drama teacher and the before mentioned Ellie Kemper are all reduced to minimal parts. Ice Cube as a stereotype embracing angry black police captain leaves a memorable mark on the film but disappears for long stretches and Rob Riggle as the school teacher has one or two short memorable scenes including the film’s funniest scene reminiscent of “Old School’s” blowdart sequence.
The film leaves the door open for an unnecessary sequel and also suffers from the overlong third act that reminded me of “Pineapple Express” which made an awkward leap from raunchy comedy to gory R-rated action sequences. “The Other Guys” had a short, satisfying ending action scene that tied up things nicely. I’m not sure how other people feel but bloody gunshot wounds especially an unnecessarily violent injury to the film’s main villain felt excessive.
The film is far from perfect, but was a breath of fresh air in the R-rated comedy and TV show reboot genre. If anything, I now take Channing Tatum seriously as a legitimate actor and that if anything, is an accomplishment worth noting.