’21 Jump Street’ Movie Review
Adapted from the TV series of the same name, 21 Jump Street jokes about how rebranding themselves is uncreative. Although the dig is meant as a joke, it couldn’t be more far off. Since the movie knows exactly what it’s trying to do, it becomes ridiculous in a very good way. As over-the-top as it gets at points, you have to realize this is exactly their aim.
They hit the target spot-on.
21 Jump Street starts with the budding bromance between Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum). They seem like an odd pair since one brings the smarts (Schmidt) and the other brings the looks (Jenko). After landing themselves in hot water, they are transfered to the revived undercover unit located at 21 Jump Street.
Their crazy, but highly funny, captain (Ice Cube) explains their mission: they are to infiltrate the local high school and find the supplier of a new synthetic drug. While back in high school, the two find out just how much its changed in the seven years they’ve been gone, paving the way for a role reversal that tests both their mission and friendship.
The supporting cast, primarily high school students, fit in well with the plot, too. Hill’s emerging love interest (Brie Larson) is a laid-back and pretty believable high schooler. Somehow, the movie doesn’t really make you question the ethics behind a 25-year-old going for an 18-year-old student. By her side is Eric (Dave Franco), who plays her non-possessive fling and potential drug dealer.
The film tries hard to be funny and succeeds in landing most, if not all, jokes. However, the raunchy bits were the least laugh-inducing (save the final scene). Instead, the constant barrage of wackiness keep the laughs coming and the plot off balance. The clever writing is where it all starts.
Stylistically, 21 Jump Street keenly follows the writing. Too many movies rely on a more straightforward approach. Yes, this approach works for more serious films, but comedies can rely on style for laughs. That’s what makes the cliche music, terrible CGI, and sheer ridiculousness work. These all seem like bad things but end up being some of the best parts.
In fact, almost any knock on the movie can be justified using this principle. Since it’s not meant to seem believable, it can get away with a lot more. The high school atmosphere bugged me a little at the beginning, but after I came to terms with the movie, I started to realize it was necessary for the plot. The writers can’t simply pick and choose which areas they apply the wackiness.
As for continuity, I won’t pretend to be an expert (or anything other than a novice) when it comes to the original TV show. However, I even caught a couple of the allusions. For the fans, I’m sure there are plenty more, making the film a gold mine for humor. Also, without getting super spoilery, there is one particular reference that is definitely a crowd pleaser.
21 Jump Street succeeds in almost every area. I was skeptical the movie would turn out to be anything other than decent – personally, I’m back-and-forth on actors like Hill and Tatum. My worries were put to rest almost immediately with both performing well. The humor hits on almost every level (raunchy, witty, meta, and more) while embracing its over-the-top nature. Even if you aren’t crazy about the particulars, the whole is definitely worth the watch.