In the action-comedy “21 Jump Street,” Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are more than ready to leave their adolescent problems behind. Joining the police force and the secret Jump Street unit, they use their youthful appearances to go undercover in a local high school. As they trade in their guns and badges for backpacks, Schmidt and Jenko risk their lives to investigate a violent and dangerous drug ring. But they find that high school is nothing like they left it just a few years earlier and neither expects that they will have to confront the terror and anxiety of being a teenager again and all the issues they thought they had left behind.
21 Jump Street starts off with plenty of things built in among a large demographic of it’s viewing audience. If you were watching television around the late eighties, then you know that Johnny Depp starred in a largely unnoticed show of the same name for the Fox network. You also know that Jonah Hill is in it, so there will likely be a bit of raunch involved. For those that actually watched the 21 Jump Street television show, you know that raunch did not fit in the equation. That is your first sign that this is a movie that leaves the remake ideology behind.
About the only thing this movie has in common with the television show is the general backdrop of the story. Two high school kids (Hill and Channing Tatum) grow up to be cops. Just like in high school, they help each other out since one has brains (Hill) while the other has brawn (Tatum). When things go wrong on their first bust, the two are sent to high school undercover all over again to bust up a suspected drug ring. Hijinks ensue.
The formula may be simplistic, but the results are hilarious. Jonah Hill plays Schmidt and the role is familiar to him. He plays a geeky kid that grows up to be a geeky cop. Tatum is the real surprise here in the first comedic role I have seen him in. He is downright hilarious as Jenko. Jenko is the antithesis for Schmidt and Tatum plays the role famously. Jenko is the jock that is not all that bright. The two play off one another quite well after you get used to the pairing. Getting used to them does take a bit of time, but it fuses quite well as the movie moves towards their returning to school.
This is the part of the movie where things get particularly fun. Ice Cube plays an over the top, angry, wise cracking police chief that gives these two all kinds of problems. The movie is crisp throughout and it does a great job of never taking itself too seriously. The bottom line here is one liner fun and raunch, and they don’t try to cover that up with too much of a story.
When the guys get back to the high school, they discover that life is very different from when they were last there. The police chief further complicates things by reversing their undercover identities. Jenko plays the smart geek while Schmidt is supposed to be a track star. While we would hope that a cop would never do something so silly in real life, it is rather funny in the movie.
The rest of the flick is all about cracking the drug ring and saving the day, but nobody really seemed to care about all of that. The star here is the comedy by far. The movie is not going to win any plot contests, but it certainly will make you laugh. When you go to see a movie with this type of premise, that is all you should be looking for really. It is rare we get a movie that gives us both. While 21 Jump Street attempts to do that, it simply is too thin on story to get the job done.
Channing Tatum is by far the star of this movie, although Jonah Hill is a vital part of why Tatum is so effective. The two end up being a pleasant surprise as they play off one another quite naturally. Tatum should certainly do more comedy as he showed wonderful timing and delivery in this movie.
21 Jump Street is not a movie that will make you go back for more necessarily, but it is certainly one you will enjoy. Be warned that the comedy is raunchy and it is plentiful. As long as you don’t mind that, you will likely find yourself laughing out loud at least a few times as the film progresses.