21 Jump Street

Who would have thought that adapting a serious dramatic police procedural into a wacky buddy comedy would produce such a funny picture? Even after seeing the trailer, I was convinced that an update of this hit TV show from the late 80s on the then newly started Fox Network, would be a disaster. What a surprise that 21 Jump Street is actually, you know, kind of good.

Our movie opens in 2005. Jonah Hill is Morton Schmidt, a geeky high school kid whose fashion sense channels early Eminem. In case you don’t recognize the rapper’s style the soundtrack plays “The Real Slim Shady” in the background. He tentatively approaches a pretty girl and asks her out to the prom. She quickly turns him down and athletic jock Greg Jenko, Channing Tatum in a letterman jacket and horrible hair, laughs hysterically at his expense. These are the personality formulas we expect and if this had been the gist of the humor, my review might not have been so positive. Instead cut to 7 years later where the two miraculously become police officers and are sent on assignment undercover to investigate a new designer drug that is spreading amongst the students. They are enrolled in Sagan High School where they now have the opportunity to relive their high school days. However this time around, things play out far different than I envisioned.

21 Jump Street works best when it’s satirizing teenagers. The story begins as a mockery of police procedurals but it ultimately becomes just as much a riff on the perils of high school life.  It’s here that the humor really takes off. Yes there’s the usual supply of crass schtick you’d expect in an R rated farce in 2012. The targets can be juvenile at times. But for every childish penis joke, there are several clever ones that satirize conventions. There is some intelligence in the script. The high school scenes as Jenko and Schmidt attempt to do their jobs while still trying to fit in, are hilarious. Actors Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have refreshing chemistry together with Tatum showing an unexpected gift for comedic timing.  Given his talented work here, I hope Tatum attempts more comedy roles in the future.

I think where 21 Jump Street really surpasses expectations in the way it subverts stereotypes and mines an equal amount of humor and heart. Hill and Tatum are likable and display genuine camaraderie that’s essential in any decent buddy film. The jokes don’t always work. Some of it’s vulgar, but when the script aims higher it truly succeeds. When all is said and done, the relevant question you must ask yourself when reviewing a comedy is, Did you laugh? And for me the answer was, Yes I did and quite a bit.

14 Responses to “21 Jump Street”

  1. Oh I agree Mark, this movie was hilarious. Been awhile since I have laughed this much. Like you said Hill and Tatum had great chemistry together. I am actually looking forward to the potential sequel. Great review!


  2. I did not want to see this, but was glad I did. It was quite funny. I used to watch the series, so I thought this movie was going to be a joke. It wasn’t. I wad glad to see Holly, Johnny and Peter make cameos.


  3. I don’t understand why such a dramatic TV show was adapted as a parody. But if it’s funny and there’s good plot, that’s all that matters. When I read this review the first time, the images wouldn’t load, so I guessed you had given it 4 stars. When I read it again with images, I was surprised to see only 3.5. Still, phenomenal review (obviously, since I read it twice :D).


  4. Great review! Yours and a few other reviews I’v read are getting me interested in watching 21 Jump Street.


  5. I went to see this earlier in the week with some good friends, and we were on the floor and rolling in the aisles with laughter! Admittedly, we had consumed a few beers prior to this – but my goodness it was a lot funnier than I expected – I would put it on par with the rest of the recent blockbuster comedies i.e. Wedding Crashers, 40yr old Virgin, Dodgeball, Bridesmaids etc. I was pleasantly surprised!


    • I find a beer or two relaxes the mind in a way that benefits most comedies. Ha ha. I would also add Horrible Bosses to that list by the way. I think you enjoyed 21 Jump Street more than I, but it was infinitely better than other comedies as of late (Wanderlust, The Hangover Part II).


  6. Nice review! I laughed quite a lot too, especially at the drug taking scenes! I’ve not seen the original TV show its based on; I only found out about it after I was talking to a friend about my plans to see this. I don’t think that was a problem though, it’s enjoyable whether you’re aware of its history or not.


    • I might even go so far as to say it’s better if you haven’t seen the original series since it really treats the TV show as comedy and not as the serious drama it was.


  7. sanclementejedi Says:

    Hey Mark, we saw this last weekend and I was very surprised how good it was, I have not laughed this loud at a movie in a long time. Granted this was a bit of stoner film, but it also had some sophisticated humor and a message about stereotypes.

    I really liked Rob Riggle in this film

    That running explosion gag was great as well


  8. Seeing this tomorrow.


  9. Hilarious, hilarious movie. I’d give it 4s tars.



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